"What Must I Do . . .?"
The question is asked by a young man who has it all, but recognizes that he is missing something essential. He asks a logical question for one who has it all. It is a question formed by his life – a life of grasp, get and hold. It is clear that there is intent, he will do whatever is required in order to put him in a place where eternal life will come to him by inheritance. It is an interesting choice of word, perhaps giving away the source of his own wealth – which, we discover later, is considerable. He understands the nature of connections, of networks. He is willing to do the work necessary to make those connections.
He sees Jesus as a source of the type of life that he wants. Jesus does not take him too seriously at the beginning of their conversation and tosses off an answer that gets to the heart of his deep need – but which the young man is unable to understand. “I have done all that stuff . . .” but still the need remains. At this Jesus stops, looks at him, and loves him. Out of His great heart of love for him, Jesus speaks this young man’s greatest need, “sell everything you have and give it away – then, come and follow me.” The young man is exactly right. Connection with Jesus is his ticket to the life he longs for. But he is held fast in the grip of what he clings too – his wealth, his life. He must first let go before he can receive. All his grabbing and grasping will not enable him to get what he most wants. Life can only be received by someone with empty, open hands – but his hands are full, and closed. Unwilling to release his grip on what has him in its grasp, the young man turns and walks away.
One of the hard lessons of the Advent season is this – we can only receive with hands open and empty. So we, like that wealthy young man must release our iron grip on what has us in its grip. Whatever we have relied on to make us safe and let us know who we are, we must let go and stand still without. We must trust that our empty hands will not remain empty. We must trust that our open hands will be filled with the longing of our hearts – that we will receive life. Life which can not be earned, can not be grabbed, can not be inherited. Life which can only come as gift.
Advent is the season of waiting with open and empty hands, trusting that He to whom we look for life will not turn us away, nor disappoint us. That He who is Life will come, once again, to us.