Lent, the Christian season observed during the 40 days before Easter, offers an annual lesson in all the things good people don’t want to hear. About how they can be better and stand before God and with God and most difficult, with other people and themselves.
It is a season of hardest choices, how to understand more in a spiritual way that’s really helpful, how to have less in a physical way and become satisfied, even if it’s extraordinarily hard.
The story in Matthew is about a rich young ruler, as a particular young man is called, who asks Jesus how he can have it all – and in the end walks away from a short, direct invitation to the ultimate.
The late, great teller of the stories of Jesus, Harvard’s Peter Gomes, wades right into the story about the rich young ruler, a story of both privilege and genuine seeking, of identifying with the rich young ruler, and of honestly considering a proposition, and turning away from its cost.
Gomes, cutting to the chase, says that not even the requirement to give away all that he had was the deal breaker. It was what Jesus said after that: “... Come and follow me.”
As Gomes wrote it in one of his Lenten sermons, “It is about us. Since this is the case, you and I also would go away sorrowful ... Sorrow, you see, is not the fruit of ignorance but the fruit of knowledge” that we cannot on our own take the ultimate step at the heart of Lent: Accepting that we can’t do it ourselves but finally admitting that anything is possible for God.
As Gomes put it, “If God can make the universe out of nothing, think of what he can do with you and me.”