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Word from Wormingford

06 May 2016

A young man reminds Ronald Blythe of Dickens’s Marley

WHEN Jesus told the rich young man to sell all he had, and give the proceeds to the poor, he was dealing with two kinds of hunger. One of them was the young man’s hunger for what we call “a life”. “Get a life,” we say. Jesus saw that the main impediment to the young man’s getting life in all its fullness was money. Alas, what he was told to give to receive such a love was too great a price to pay; so the young man went away, sad.

It wasn’t as if he hadn’t already invested heavily; for he had said his prayers, he said, and remained virtuous, he said, which would have been enough for anyone. But Jesus sees a trapped soul, a young person already unable to move because of possessions — someone who spent what life he had looking after his money.

Charles Dickens had him in mind when he created Jacob Marley, whom, you will recall, ended up as a ghost hung about with ledgers and safes so that he could hardly walk; which is what we must do occasionally, to be able to fly towards God. Today, Marley would be dragging around computers and investments, mortgages and offshore profits, and a garage full of cars.

Christ’s anti-materialistic law is a hard law for us — almost the hardest. It hits us cruelly. The Gospels are crammed with every kind of giving, from the widow’s mite to the Lord’s all; but all this giving would not be there if a tremendous purpose did not lie behind it. We know that one of the best gifts which is within our giving is not money, but time.

Friends and neighbours in want are often not saying “Spare us a pound,” but “Spare us an hour, or a day.” We look at our watch or our diary and mumble something about “I can manage a visit on the 25th at four in the afternoon, if that will do.” Whereas Jesus is advising us: give this person yourself, for an unmeasured period; free yourself from all this busyness.

The blind man halted the healer by demanding mercy. Just before this exciting event on the Jericho road — on that same road on which a Samaritan showed mercy to someone of another faith — Christ and his little band had met after a solemn journey to Jerusalem to come to grips, as it were, with what would happen. In Luke’s words, the son of man would be spitefully treated, and executed.

But, scripture says, they understood none of these things. They were beyond their vision. Sometimes, he was clear as daylight; sometimes, as obscure as midnight. They could not see what he was getting at; so they walked on, as they always did in his company. Walked on and on, listening, half-grasping what he said.

George Herbert remembered to say “Thank you” for the insights that God gave him. “Thou that hast given so much to me, Give one thing more, a grateful heart. See how thy beggar works on thee By art.”

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