Thursday 27 June 2024

A Meditation on Mark 10:17–22

Each morning, the Fathers and Brothers assemble in church before the early Mass, in order to make their meditation. At least to try to meditate, since, as in prayer, things do not always flow easily or spontaneously, especially if there are distractions around us. Usually, one would take a subject or an event from the Gospels, or some other spiritual book, and by staying with it for a while, make it the material of prayer.

A meditation is not itself a prayer. Evelyn Underhill described it as “a sort of technique which leads to prayer, turns our minds and hearts and wills towards God, and so helps our Communion with him.” So once our meditation has led us into some sort of prayer, it has done its job and we can move on and simply continue our conversation with God and our self-offering to him.

Of course, people do things differently. One thing suits one person’s temperament, while another method or system is more helpful to another. The first thing is to want God, and I do believe that the soul that wants God has God. Our meditation on some scene from the Gospel or words of Christ opens up a path and leads us into his presence, and then we are praying. It may not be the sort of rapturous or esoteric experience we were hoping for, perhaps, but since ours is an incarnational religion, we must remain, like our Lord, with feet planted firmly on the ground — in the concrete reality of our lives. For that is where the Lord Jesus comes to meet us.

So take a scene and picture it in your mind’s eye. What’s happening there? Who is present? What does our Lord do or say, and what message may be there for us? What is our response? By thinking about these things, we shall soon find ourselves praying — leaving the meditation behind — talking to God quite simply and from our hearts.

Try taking your Bible and go to Mark 10:17–22. There we read of the encounter of the Rich Young Ruler with our Lord. It starts so beautifully, doesn’t it? You can see Jesus on the road and the boy running to him and kneeling before him, drawn to the Master by that wonderful power of attraction, as iron drawn to a magnet. He recognises that Jesus has the words of Eternal Life, which everyone really longs to hear. And the boy, there on his knees, asks him the price of full life in God and for God. He’s not talking about what happens when he dies. He is thinking of the great consummation, when all the prophecies will be fulfilled in Messiah. The young man has already done all that would make him respectable. Since his youth, he tells our Lord, he has kept all the commandments of the Law. Yet, he remains unsatisfied, feeling that there is yet more to be done. Now, picture our Lord looking at him with love as he tells him the cost of discipleship: the price of friendship with God is an unreserved consecration, if you like, total self-abandonment. “A condition of complete simplicity, costing not less than everything.” (T.S. Eliot) Let go of everything that ties you here, “take up your cross and follow me.”

And so from meditating on the scene, we move on, without fuss, to prayer. What about us? Do we have these interior battles? Have we a sense that we could be doing more for Christ and that he is maybe asking more of us than we are currently giving? Are we merely respectable in our belief and practice? What are the possessions we might have to relinquish in order to be free? Somebody? Ambitions? Interests? Comforts? Anxieties? Self-chosen aims? We should pray for honesty and courage when facing these questions. What shall I do Lord? Take from me all that hinders me in paying the price you are asking of me. Cleanse my heart from all self-serving desires. Let me be content to follow you with an undivided heart. Let me do your work with a joyful and loving heart, going wherever you want me to go, acting always without self-interest, remaining your friend and loyal servant.

The story of the Rich Young Ruler is rather sad. There is no happy ending, at least, not in Mark’s Gospel. But maybe later, when he had matured in faith and understanding, he had run back to the Master a second time, now willing and able to make the sacrifice demanded of him, with a wholehearted act of generosity, believing that he would indeed be richly rewarded in the Eternal Life of the Kingdom.