What can we learn from the rich young man?

What can we learn from the rich young man?

In my recent Head's assembly, I explored the parable of the rich young man, in relation to our Word of the Week: Giving.

In our assemblies, we encourage girls to explore big ideas, different perspectives and to reflect on how the Bible can be interpreted and applied to life in the 21st century. This has continued throughout lockdown, through our Head's assemblies, which are part of our full remote learning programme.

This week, I introduced the parable of the rich young man. On asking Jesus the secret to eternal life, the young man was told: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

On hearing this advice, the young man - who had amassed many possessions - felt sorrowful. I asked the girls to reflect on why this might be? Why is it difficult to part with 'things'? Why do they become so important to us?

This connected with our Word of the Week: Giving. We explored what it means to 'give' and why this might be challenging. As always, girls came up with very interesting ideas on what we can 'give' including possessions, but also our time or our friendship.

In the 21st century, young people grow up in a society in which consumerism has become very central. They are surrounded by advertising, in a world where new possessions can be 'added to basket' in a second and we can shop without even leaving our homes.

It can be difficult to escape this culture, but I think this is changing for the better. Our younger generation is leading the way. They are questioning consumer behaviour, demanding more ethical trade and sustainable business practice. As Emma Watson, actor and champion for women's rights points out:

As consumers, we have so much power to change the world, by just being careful in what we buy. Emma Watson

I believe St Mary's girls are ahead of the game here. Experiencing an education grounded in Mary Ward Values provides every opportunity to explore alternatives to consumerism and alternative sources of happiness. Giving in all its different guides - from acting to help others, taking time to listen and being a good friend - offers us a way to understand and experience what truly makes us happy.

Whether she is planting trees, raising funds for charity like six-year-old Aria M., joining our Annual Fun Run or thinking of others facing difficult times like Imogen C. giving is part of what it means to be a St Mary's girl. Every year we see brilliant examples of fundraising, community spirit and activism amongst our students, particularly those who take the lead in our School, Faith and Eco Councils. This experience is central to understanding the true sources of happiness in life - which, in my view, can not be equalled by mere possessions.

Matthew O'Reilly, Head of Juniors