Commentary on the Gospel of
A common tale is told in Asia (in different versions and languages) about a king who was unhappy. He had everything, and yet he could not figure out the cause of his unhappiness. His doctors tried many therapies and failed to find a cure for the king’s melancholy. Finally, the king’s astrologer told him that if he wore the shirt of the happiest man in his land, he would be happy. The king sent his ministers all over the land, but every person seemed to have some discontent brewing in her/his life.
One day, when the king went hunting in the forest, he found a man whistling while chopping wood. The king inquired: “My friend, would you like a better job or more money?” The woodcutter replied: “No. I have a good wife and children, a job I enjoy, and a roof over my head. I have all that I need.” The king realized that this was the man he was looking for; unfortunately, the man did not own a shirt!
This tale inspires and challenges us in the light of today’s gospel passage. The first disciples left behind their families, boats, nets, and homes, and followed Jesus. In contrast, the rich young man (in yesterday’s gospel passage) rejected Jesus’ invitation to discipleship and “went away sad, for he had many possessions.” Peter begins to say, “Lord, we have given up everything.” In other words, “What’s in it for us?” Gently, Jesus helps his disciples understand that they have given up their human families, but now they receive another community that is new and very different—a community that is centered on the will of God. Perhaps Peter was helped to remember an earlier moment when Jesus said: “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
This gospel is not only for priests or consecrated religious. It is for everyone who seeks perfection by letting go or not clinging to people, possessions, or things. St. Ignatius of Loyola invites us to be detached and spiritually indifferent. We are to love people and use things (not the other way round) in as much as they lead us to God. When we have “given up everything” (Peter’s words) then we can fill ourselves with Christ. What outcomes can we expect? Freedom, peace, joy, and equanimity. And, as Jesus promises in today’s gospel, eternal life. Not a bad choice.