Why is God so demanding of us? The short answer is that God is demanding because He wants what is best for His children, because He loves us. This Sunday, Saint Mark describes the encounter between Jesus Christ and a rich young man (Mark 10:17-30). After the man explains that he has followed all of God’s Commandments since his youth, Saint Mark states that: “Jesus, looking at him, loved him…” That “looking” was the look of the Creator directed towards His beloved creature; the look of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit on His beloved children, sons and daughters, who are striving to do all the right things.
After giving him this look of love, it might be surprising that Jesus then tells the man to go off and sell all his possessions – the very things to which the young man is most attached. Now, someone might say that if Jesus really loved this man, why would He ask him to give up the things he valued most? If Jesus really loved him, why would He be so demanding and make him so uncomfortable? We know the answer: it’s because love seeks what is best for the beloved. As Saint John tells us: “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him” (1 John 4:16). Love by its very nature is demanding; it will never settle for mediocrity. And the young man, because he was so attached to money, possessions, and worldly success, was in danger of falling into a mediocre, stifling, and frustrated life. And so Jesus, out of love, invites the young man to choose the path of wisdom instead of comfort, the path of following God’s will instead of self-will. In this same Gospel passage, Jesus also “looked” at His disciples, teaching them about the gift of Faith. Our Lord teaches us that He wants us to have things, to be good stewards of His gifts, while also teaching us to not become so attached to them that we risk losing sight of Him.
The Lord Jesus, as He did for the man in the Gospel, constantly looks at us with infinite, personal love, and invites us to respond to His love, to follow Him more closely, in a selfless, self-giving love. Yes, God is demanding because He loves us. He wants us to be rich in spiritual matters first and foremost – so He gives us the richness of faith, hope and love, the richness of His Church, Word, Teachings, Sacraments, Communion of Saints and prayer. He wants the young man and each of us to have the wealth of friendship with Him, the treasure of eternal life in Heaven. To have such treasured friendship with Jesus, we need to be humble and obedient disciples, for He is more than a good friend – Jesus Christ is Lord and God, the Only Savior of the world!
With peace and prayers in Christ,