The rich-young-man syndrome

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

WE have to be wary of this syndrome. Many actually are afflicted with it, and worse, a good number do not even realize it. It is this syndrome illustrated in that gospel episode where a rich young man earnestly asked Christ how he can enter the Kingdom of heaven. (cfr. Mt 19,16-22)

The story started well but ended sadly. A rich young man, certainly with good intentions and who must have been doing well and was faithful in following God’s commandments, revealed to Christ what was in his heart of hearts. He passed the initial requirements, but when told about the ultimate requirement—to give his all to God—he found himself unable to do it.

Definitely to be able to give our all is no easy thing. It will require a lot of faith, hope and charity for God and for everybody else. To be sure, it will demand a lot of effort, self-denial and detachment. But we are also assured that we are actually being given the best deal, since as Christ said, what may appear as a loss for us would actually redound to a hundredfold of gain, not only in the afterlife, but even now here on earth.

The lesson to learn is that generosity is not a matter of how much we give but rather of total detachment from the things of this world so that our heart can only be for God. We therefore have to be wary of our strong, if often subtle, attachment to the things of this world such that our heart would at best be a divided heart, which is actually an impossibility.

That’s because in our relation with God, there is no middle ground. It is either we are with him completely or not at all. We have to overcome that strong tendency to think that we can be partly with God and partly with our own selves, even if we can say that we are giving God 99% of what we have and keep only 1% for us.

We have to give all. In fact, with God we have to give our very own selves, and not only things, not only some possessions. Remember Christ telling us that we have to love God with “all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Mt 22,37)

Let’s hope that we can echo these words of an old song: “I have no use for divided hearts. I give mine whole, and not in parts.” Let’s strive to reach that goal. It’s not an easy goal, but neither is it impossible. With God’s grace and our all-out humble efforts, we can hack it.

But given our human condition which allows us to learn things in stages, we have to understand that everyday we have to conquer our tendency to some earthly attachments so that we can say we are giving ourselves more and more to God until we give ourselves completely to him.

This will require a constant reminder and self-reassurance that it is all worthwhile to give and to lose everything for God because we will in fact gain a lot more than what we give. Let’s always remember Christ telling us “to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” (Mt 6,33)

Since we are human beings with material needs, let’s see to it that all the things we use and own are used and owned in a way that would foster our total identification with God through Christ in the Holy Spirit.