God loves us so much that we have been given a distinction more valuable and precious than any other creature, the gift of Free Will. Today’s readings, present us with examples of people exercising their free will, making rational choices. Solomon, in the first reading, clearly chooses God’s gifts of prudence and wisdom over other gifts that can be tempting: power, riches, and even health and beauty. Guided by the spirit of wisdom, he sees beyond the greed and selfishness of the things of this life to perceive the beauty of God’s wisdom, a beauty that’s far too often rejected by others. The rich young man in the Gospel, responding to the call of Jesus, hears the voice of wisdom. He seeks to go beyond the basics of his faith that he practiced from his youth to follow Jesus, but the price is too high for him. He is not yet ready to give up his wealth and prestige, the ways of this world for a much greater way, the way of Christ.
It is so easy to get caught in the same trap as the rich young man. After all, what he had; wealth, possessions, power and prestige, are held up and respected in many cultures of our world. Solomon’s values, and those of Christians, are much less visible and obvious. Many would label the rich young man as foolish to give up all the advantages he had always enjoyed to follow a preacher.
In contrast, the Apostles, who probably had less to give up than the rich young man, were more easily willing to give up all they had to follow Jesus. Yet, they also took a risk, giving up their trades and a way of life they knew and had become comfortable for them, in order to follow Jesus. Like the rich young man, they were drawn to Jesus, but unlike him, they were able to give up the things of this world for something much more valuable; to follow the way of Jesus.
Jesus continues to call people to follow him, to take on his values and those of the Gospel, to prefer God to riches and pleasure. The key is to listen prayerfully for Jesus’ call in life, and to follow him in that call. He could be calling today’s young men to priesthood, or young men and women to religious life or to the vocation of marriage. Jesus might offer others the path of a difficult life as a physician, requiring a great deal of personal sacrifice for the healing of others, or the path of an educator who dedicates their life to teaching and guiding students. God aligns each call with the interests, personalities, and gifts of the recipient and with the needs of the world.
God does not offer us these choices only once in a lifetime. Each and every day is filled with countless choices, from how we respond to a particular situation, to the media we view, to the attitudes we take on each day, or to the ways we spend our waking and evening hours. We present at Sunday Mass have made a wondrous choice: to allow God to transform us in word and sacrament. So as we listen carefully in prayer and allow the Holy Spirit, God’s wisdom, to guide us, let us commit to making choices that reflect the values of the Gospel, the values which bear witness to God’s presence in our lives and in the world.