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What Is the Meaning of Life?

Monday of the Eight Week in Ordinary Time

First Reading: Sirach 17:20-24

To the penitent God provides a way back,
he encourages those who are losing hope
and has chosen for them the lot of truth.
Return to him and give up sin,
pray to the LORD and make your offenses few.
Turn again to the Most High and away from your sin,
hate intensely what he loathes,
and know the justice and judgments of God,
Stand firm in the way set before you,
in prayer to the Most High God.

Who in the nether world can glorify the Most High
in place of the living who offer their praise?
Dwell no longer in the error of the ungodly,
but offer your praise before death.
No more can the dead give praise
than those who have never lived;
You who are alive and well
shall praise and glorify God in his mercies.
How great the mercy of the LORD,
his forgiveness of those who return to him!

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 6, 7

R. (11a) Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.
Blessed is he whose fault is taken away,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed the man to whom the LORD imputes not guilt,
in whose spirit there is no guile.
R. Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
my guilt I covered not.
I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,”
and you took away the guilt of my sin.
R. Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.
For this shall every faithful man pray to you
in time of stress.
Though deep waters overflow,
they shall not reach him.
R. Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.
You are my shelter; from distress you will preserve me;
with glad cries of freedom you will ring me round.
R. Let the just exult and rejoice in the Lord.

Gospel: Mark 10:17-27

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up,
knelt down before him, and asked him,
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good?
No one is good but God alone.
You know the commandments: You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
you shall not defraud;
honor your father and your mother.”
He replied and said to him,
“Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,
“You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
At that statement, his face fell,
and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples,
“How hard it is for those who have wealth
to enter the Kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words.
So Jesus again said to them in reply,
“Children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God!
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves,
“Then who can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For men it is impossible, but not for God.
All things are possible for God.”

NAB

When this young man approaches Jesus, he asks a powerful question: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” At the root of his question is a form of the ultimate questions that my heart has wrestled with. What is the meaning of life? What is my purpose on this earth? How do I come to know it? How do I find true, lasting happiness? Do I really have worth? This is a young man deeply seeking for the truth to these questions. And so he comes to Jesus.

The most powerful part of this story to me lies in these next six words: “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” It is actually the only time in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus is said to have looked on an individual with love. This deep look of love is the power that transforms lives. This loving gaze is what would have captured this man’s heart and moved him to surrender and give up all for Jesus—if he had seen it. But sadly, he couldn’t see that in the gaze of Jesus.

We know how the story ends. The young man walks away sad when Jesus says what He must do to inherit eternal life. I always have wondered what happened to him as time passed. Did he ever change his mind? Was he able to let go of all the things that held him back in giving all to Jesus?

We will never know. But I know Jesus never stopped loving that young man. Jesus never stopped believing in his potential. Even though this young man was unable to respond with his entire life to Jesus, I don’t think Jesus ever gave up on him. And so it is with us, my sisters.

Even when we royally screw up or make bad, sinful choices, Jesus never gives up on us. He never stops believing in our potential. He never stops cheering us on to be the women He knows He has created us to be. And that promise is something we can rejoice in each new day.

Even when we don’t believe in ourselves, we have a loving Father Who never stops believing in us.

Take some time today to spend in stillness. Allow the loving gaze of Jesus to settle you where you feel unsure. His gaze is where we find our true identity.

Patty Breen is a runner, youth minister ordinaire, and thinks old movies are the greatest thing since sliced bread.  When not fundraising for World Youth Day, she is learning to find grace in all things. You can find out more about her here.

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