By Father Dennis Meinen
View from the Scooter
Remember the story of the monkey and the coconut?
When folks in Africa wanted to capture a monkey, they cut a coconut in half and carved out a hole big enough for the monkey’s hand to go through. On the other half, they placed a tasty orange. Then, they tied the coconut together and hung it on a tree branch.
The unsuspecting monkey, swinging in the tree, smells a tasty orange and sticks his hand through the hole of the coconut. He grabs the orange but can’t pull it out through the small hole. Here come those people intending on capturing the monkey.
If you could hear the monkey praying, it would be something like, “Please, Lord, don’t let them capture me, but please don’t let me drop this tasty orange!”
Now, if we were watching this scenario, we would yell at the monkey, “Drop the orange! Run away! Save your life!”
Of course, the monkey wouldn’t listen to us either. As the net captured him, we could see his sad face and hand, still holding onto his tiny bit of orange.
We hear something similar in Scripture. Remember the Gospel where the wealthy young man asked Jesus what he must do to obtain eternal life? Let’s put ourselves in the clothes and shoes of the rich young man, who in some Gospels is called a ruler. Now, he stands before Jesus, asking what he must do to gain eternal life.
Our Lord looked on him with love but then had to notice his fine linen garments – dyed blue and purple or scarlet – and his fine footwear, not cheap sandals of the common person, but expensive sandal-thongs. Now he hears from Jesus, “You must keep the commandments to gain eternal life.”
He’s done that! But then, after looking at the rich man’s clothes, Jesus now says, “There is one thing more; sell what you have and give it to the poor. Then come and follow me! The young man went away sad, for he had many possessions.”
We, too, come to the encounter with Jesus, as good persons looking to add spiritual depth by using our God-given talents. Are we perfect? Clearly not! But the twelve Jesus called to be followers during his public ministry were hardly perfect themselves. As they journeyed with Jesus on the plains and hills of Galilee and in the streets of Jerusalem, we discover one who totally sold out Jesus for a wad of silver, another who denied that he even knew Jesus, and a pair of brothers who seemed interested only in their being on the right and left hand of Jesus in the kingdom.
We’re called to trust the good God. “Only God is good,” Jesus said in the beginning of his dialogue with the man.
To be a disciple, then, is to set one’s eyes on God and not on possessions. The man was sad because he valued his many possessions over the call of Jesus. What about us? What are we holding onto before we answer his call? I pray that with God’s help we can and will take the steps to be his disciples.
Lord, continue to bless us with the desire to say “yes” to our call to discipleship. Help us, like your original disciples, to walk faithfully with you the paths that make up our life situations. Be with us as we carry out your call. Let us realize that our call comes from you and help us to serve others. But first we must let go of our tasty distractions.
Father Dennis Meinen serves as chaplain at Holy Spirit Retirement Home, Sioux City, for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the diocese and Calix and Faithful Friar of the Garrigan 4th Degree Assembly of the Knights of Columbus, Sioux City.