'Sell everything you have': just as hard as it sounds

Daily Mass is a treat for a working girl like me. Usually my work hours conflict with the times. But I had taken a Monday off to deal with inheritance matters after my mother died. Money was very much on my mind as I arrived for morning Mass, as I had been figuring out what still had to be paid, what was left and who was getting how much. Even though my parents left a will with instructions, the distribution of money was getting contentious. I was trying not to get lawyers involved, trying to follow my parents’ wishes while pleasing their descendants, and I seemed to be doing a lousy job of it.

Because God has a wicked sense of humor, the Gospel that day was Mark’s story of the rich young man. This exemplary fellow, you may remember, managed to tell Jesus with a straight face that he regularly obeyed every single commandment all the time, but he didn’t know what else to do to gain eternal life. So Jesus told him to go and sell everything he had, give the money to the poor and then come back and follow him. The young man, Mark tells us, went away sad, for he had many possessions.


We never find out if he ever had a change of heart.

This young man, said the priest that Monday morning in his homily, is the only person in the Gospels who does not heed a direct call from Jesus. Everyone else drops everything and follows Jesus: fishermen, tax collectors, sinful women. The rich young man is more handicapped by his wealth than anyone else is by his or her baggage. Wealth can trap us. It is really hard to let go of our stuff. But when we are not willing to part with our possessions or purses, when we are defined by the dollars we guard and the things we hoard, we cannot even hear the call of Jesus.

As I left church to return to the battlefield of familial negotiations, I imagined telling everyone that I had given all of our parents’ money to the poor. I think I mentioned, though, that I am trying to avoid litigation. I stopped for coffee, and then to see a friend, who knew just what to do. She held my hands and prayed for softened hearts.

Pettiness and ugliness are often the unwelcome guests in a room where money is discussed, and kindness and generosity are sometimes too quiet to be heard above the din. My parents left much to us, money and memories, good blood and bad. The essential part of the story is how we carry forward all that God has given us. I don’t want us to go away sad.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Bruce Snowden
3 years 4 months ago
Valeri, by this time, the inheritance “discussion” taking place within your family must have concluded, hopefully without recourse to legal intervention. Yes, the “Go sell everything you have” Mass reading you spoke about, did show that God does have a “wicked” sense of humor. The word “wicked” as in “that was a wicked game!” has several meanings, one of them, “Done with great skill” applicable to God the “All Wise.” Jesus also showed a “Done with great skill” sense of humor, dealing with the many times married Samaritan woman at the Well. Jesus said “go get your husband,” to which the woman answered, “I have no husband.” Jesus replied, “You answered correctly, as the man you now live with is not your husband!” Can’t you see the mischievous look on Jesus’ face as he gave the woman his humorous whammy, spontaneously giving a smile of non-judgmental friendship? Incidentally soon thereafter, the Apostles who had gone to get some food returned and were very surprised to see Jesus speaking with a woman, especially a Samaritan woman, as Jews and Samaritans were not friendly one to the other to say the least. Jesus’ “Done with great skill” sense of humor reflective of the mercy of the All Wise God reminds me of the way Pope Francis handles the Keys of Peter. I hope in mercy which is another way to spell love, your family inheritance “discussion” was accomplished with great skill, high fiving in the joy of Gods’/Jesus’ “wicked sense of humor” wisely.
Andrew Di Liddo
3 years 4 months ago
Valerie: "The battlefield of familial negotiations" that you wrote about returning to after Mass really rung true with me. It is a total mystery to me why it has to be this way. I did find a couple of friends' families on my journey that I really admired, they were so different from my dysfunctional family. The Synod the last couple of years has been a ray of hope to me but after I post here, I am going to flip through the Pope's encyclical "The Joy of Love" to see if I can find any tips on navigating the battlefield. ;-)


The latest from america

A Trump supporter reacts after a protester grabs the hat off his head outside the Target Center in Minneapolis, following a campaign rally led by President Donald Trump on Oct. 10. (Renee Jones Schneider/Star Tribune via AP)
Those who oppose Mr. Trump can make the case that supporters should change their minds, writes Holly Taylor Coolman, but to make this case glibly or derisively is to ignore political realities.
Holly Taylor CoolmanOctober 15, 2019
On Oct. 14, 2018, he was canonized by Pope Francis. Today, Salvadorans ask themselves what the transition from “Msgr. Romero”—what he has been called in El Salvador for decades—to “St. Romero” means for his legacy.
Melissa VidaOctober 14, 2019
Pope Francis, tweeting about the new saints he recognized Oct. 13, inadvertently used a hashtag connected to the New Orleans Saints football team. But fans appreciated it, as did the team. (CNS photo)
A hashtag mix-up caused a papal tweet meant to give thanks for the Catholic Church's newest saints to be read as Pope Francis showing support for the New Orleans Saints' football team.
Domenico Giani, lead bodyguard for Pope Francis and head of the Vatican police force, keeps watch as the pope leaves his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 1, 2019. Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Giani Oct. 14, nearly two weeks after an internal security notice was leaked to the Italian press. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Domenico Giani resigned after being unable to identify the source of a leak of a confidential Vatican security notice connected to ongoing financial investigations.
Gerard O’ConnellOctober 14, 2019