Tough Love Jesus – Where’s Peter
He used the story of the rich young man as a backdrop to juxtapose two different versions of morality, more than that, two different versions of Christ.
The first version of Christ, which the commentator sarcastically offers, says to the young man, “Hey man, it’s okay. Do not worry. Coldness. Just do the best you can in the complex circumstances of your life, give God what you can most generously at the moment within the limits of those circumstances, and God will accept it. And you can have some peace of mind about it all. It is a “you make yourself” Jesus who places no real demands on the lives of his disciples.
The second version of Christ – which the author claims is the true version – bluntly tells the young man that his wealth is a problem, then shakes the dust off his feet as the young man walks away sad. He’s a “facts don’t care about your feelings” Jesus who asks a lot and lets us walk away if we think it’s too hard.
I would like to suggest that these two images of Christ are more caricatures distorted by the failings of modern man than they are true portraits of Christ.
In Mark’s account of this story, before Jesus tells the young man to sell his possessions, he looks at the man and loves him (Mark 10:21). It’s not a harsh love Jesus, it’s Mercy Incarnate.
Moreover, as mentor and catechist recently pointed out to me, some Church traditions propose that the mysterious young man who followed Jesus after he was arrested in the garden wearing only a cloth (see Mark 14:51-52) is actually the young rich man. Between the day he left Christ sad because of his own weakness and attachments and the day of the Lord’s agony in the garden, the young man had indeed sold everything and followed Jesus.
Christ didn’t let this man walk away, he was just patient with him. And patience should not be confused with leniency or complacency.
The call to reach the heights of heroic holiness AND the recognition that holiness is a process of growth that occurs over time and can be marked by moments of weakness are not competing ideas. They can both be true.
The author of the original article believes that recent discussions of accompaniment and discernment are just a “salad of meaningless buzzwords” masking the belief that “holiness is not for ordinary people “. Perhaps some theologians or pastors abuse this vocabulary. But that’s no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater and prop up a caricature of Jesus’ tough love.
In 2018, during a talk at the World Meeting of Families in Ireland, Bishop Barron clarified what he saw as Pope Francis’ mission by comparing his teaching with what he saw in the seminarians he had. helped while he was rector at Mundelein Seminary. Baron said:
“The dark side of John Paul II’s generation of seminarians was that they were often deeply frustrated when they fell short of the ideal. You know that because he [John Paul II] was such a heroic figure (indeed he was) and upheld such a heroic ideal (indeed he did), and they were called to follow him. But then what do you do when you fail? I think they struggled with that. And I read Francis as being sensitive to this fact, this part of our pastoral experience. What do we do when people fail? And he prefers the path of mercy and reintegration to the path of exclusion. And I think that feels right to me.
I believe Bishop Barron is correct here. And I would add patience and accompaniment to mercy and reintegration.
God is not indifferent or lenient with our behavior, but neither is He just laying down the gauntlet and letting us walk away from Him if we are not human enough to take up our cross at that exact moment. In fact, God told us that he is a shepherd who hunts each of us and does not stop until he finds us (Luke 15:4).
As the Holy Father teaches:
“We can ask ourselves if God is demanding too much of us, asking for a decision that we are not yet ready to make. This leads many people to stop enjoying the encounter with the word of God; but that would be to forget that no one is more patient than God our Father, that no one is more understanding and willing to wait. It always invites us to take a step forward, but does not demand a full response if we are not yet ready. He simply asks that we sincerely look at our lives and present ourselves honestly before him, and be willing to keep growing, asking him what we ourselves cannot yet achieve (Evangelii Gaudium 153).