FILLED BUT UNFULFILLED

Monday, 20th Week in Ordinary Time

            I received an email from a friend a businessman based abroad. It is a very striking letter in which he is actually sharing his feeling. The most significant part of that email is where he says: “Perhaps you can say, as the cliché goes, I have everything that money can buy…yet, I don’t feel a sense of fulfillment. I have a lot of things but I am not that much deep inside.” Henri Nouwen coined a phrase to describe such condition: “persons who are filled yet unfulfilled.”

            The young man in today’s gospel story certainly belongs to that group: “persons who are filled yet unfulfilled.” He is filled: filled with wealth, possessions and other things in store for him as a young man. Yet, obviously, he is unfulfilled: he is not satisfied with his life. That is why he approaches Jesus to ask: “What good must I do to gain eternal life?” It is a question of someone wanting to be more fulfilled.

            Jesus tells the young man, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” “Then come, follow me.” And the gospel tells us, “When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”

            Filled but unfulfilled…Is this not also descriptive of our own situation? Are we not also filled with things we’d like to hold on to? What hold do material possessions have on us? What are the things that prevent us from following Jesus more freely, more closely, more faithfully, thus, making our lives unfulfilled?

            We live in a society where we are strongly conditioned to believe that only riches and possessions could make us happy. Commercials in the mass media teach one thing: If you buy and own this, you will be happy. If you buy and own more, you will be happier. But that is not true, for in the end we are owned by what we own.

            Jesus teaches the exact opposite of what our society promotes. He is telling us, “You will be free and happy, enter the kingdom of God, attain eternal life if you give up owning and accumulating things, and begin loving without calculating.”

            Let us pray that we may be able to make a radical response and have the freedom to follow Jesus more faithfully. So that we may we be filled with God’s Spirit and be fulfilled in our lives.

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