October 14, 2018
The 28th Sunday Ordinary Time
Readings: Wisdom 7: 7-11; Psalm 90; Hebrews 4: 12-13; Mark 10: 17-30
by Jude Siciliano, OP
Having wealth does not automatically condemn a person. Nor does poverty bring automatic sainthood. But, in today’s gospel, Jesus was challenging the common belief of his day: that riches were a sign of God’s favor. If you had wealth it was a reward for leading a good life. Jesus reverses this notion when he invites the rich man to, “Go sell what you have, give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, then come, follow me.”
People pursue wealth thinking it will guarantee status, control, security and independence – as we commonly say, “the good life.” What’s more, the rich man would have seen his wealth as approval by God, a reward for his good, and observant life. After Jesus reminds him of the commandments he replies, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” In Jesus’ day the rich would have had more time and means to study and follow the Law. The illiterate poor could barely scrape by from day to day, with no time to study and learn ethical teachings and proper religious observances. Thus, they would appear non-observant, outside religious propriety and sinners.
The man had wealth and he kept the commandments – it seems he had it made! He asked Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Before responding, Jesus dismisses the man’s calling him “good.” It’s not about titles and symbols of honor. Instead, Jesus turns the man’s focus to God. The laws he quotes guide our life to conform to God’s ways. But Jesus says more than the laws is required to have life. If the man wants “eternal life,” Jesus invites him to sell all and follow him. It’s not just about keeping rules, customs and religious laws– it’s about following Jesus. And that requires complete surrender, putting our life and security, not in material goods, but in Jesus and his path to life.
If the man did give up his riches, what visible assurance would he have that he had God’s approval and the gift of life? He would have to keep trusting and following Christ. “All he would have” was Jesus. Would that be enough for him; would that assure him of God’s favor? Is Jesus enough for us? What signs do we look for; what do we need to assure us of God’s love?
Our first reading from the Book of Wisdom also puts focus on our lives. The author of the reading prays for “prudence.” Prudence is the skill and good judgment in using our resources. It is guided and influenced by wisdom. The author’s prayer affirms the value of wisdom over riches and possessions.
Similarly, the second reading shows God’s involvement in the world by means of the word. It is a living word that exposes our true values. Those with riches may control a lot of human situations, but that doesn’t mean they have eternal life. The gospel reminds us that dependence on God, through Jesus Christ, brings us what is truly good and life-giving. In response to today’s readings we reflect on where and how our desire for status and security preoccupies us, and draws our attention and energies away from God.
Wait a minute! I am not rich and almost all the people who hear this gospel today aren’t either. Maybe we should just bracket the passage and label it, “does not apply to me.” Before we do that, let’s give it a second look.
I just finished preaching at a parish in Petaluma, Ca., where they have a very active catechetical program for children. Such programs teach our young that we are called to serve God and not possessions, as a way to “eternal life.” It isn’t only the subject matter taught to the students that conveys this message, but the obvious witness of the teachers’ lives. They are all volunteers. It takes time, energy and talent to train the young in their faith. These teachers are a sign to their students. They have put aside an emphasis on material goods, “left everything,” to follow Christ and thus receive the gift of life he offers his followers.
The reading from Hebrews today describes God’s word as “living and effective…able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” God’s word today may be calling us to think again about the question of possessions. It seems the disciples who heard what Jesus said to the rich man were bewildered, when they asked, “Then who can be saved?” They weren’t rich and what Jesus said would have been in contrast to what they had been taught. They too would have seen wealth and power as a sign of God’s favor; poverty as a punishment.
The rich man went away sad because he could not, or would not, give up his riches in favor of Christ. But the Gospels don’t say riches in themselves are evil. Nor does it seem the rich man’s riches made him a sinful person: he was a law-abiding and good man. But Jesus was asking him to go further in his faith life and become a full-fledged, totally-devoted follower.
That was the challenge for the rich man. What is it for us today? It puts a question to us: In what do we ultimately trust? Is it money, possessions, status, or power? Or, are we willing to put our trust in God? Not that this trust will guarantee an easy walk through life. Trusting in God does not mean we can relax, stop working and let God take care of us. But whatever life presents to us God will be our strength and security.
Another question before us today is: How much of our lives are we willing to invest in following Jesus? Will following him require us to put aside what will be to our advantage, but conflicts with our faith in Christ? Does our faith cost us anything, or have we just made compromises and avoided the demands faith has made on us? Who knows what we followers of Christ will be called to give up? But the gospel directs us to be prepared and willing to let go of whatever hinders our full commitment to Jesus and his ways.
Jesus has a last challenge to the rich man and to us: Are we willing to share what we have with the poor? We may not be rich, but there are always those who have less.
Palabras para Domingo
14 de octubre, 2018
Lecturas: Sabiduría 7: 7-11; Hebreo 4: 12-13; Marcos 10: 17-30
El evangelio de hoy día continúa enfocándose en el tema, “el que no reciba el reino de Dios como un niño, no entrará en él”. Observamos como un joven adinerado se acerca a Jesús y le pregunta lo hay que hacer para alcanzar la vida eterna. Este joven ya cumplía los mandamientos, pero le falta un corazón abierto y contrito. Jesús le había ofrecido al joven la oportunidad para convertirse en discípulo íntimo y participar en su misión de evangelización. Jesús mismo se entristece por el rechazo.
Al reflexionar en el evangelio nos damos cuenta que la cuestión de riqueza es un desafío desde el tiempo de Jesús. Este joven es una buena persona y visto con ojos de misericordia por parte de Jesús. Ya observaba los mandamientos, pero buscaba algo más. Jesús le extiende la invitación de seguirle, pero el joven mejor decidió mejor apegarse a los bienes materiales, y no aceptar la invitación con un entusiasmo de niño.
Los apóstoles se asustan al escuchar las palabras de Jesús, “Que difícil les va a ser a los ricos entrar en el Reino de Dios”. Ellos consideraban la riqueza un signo del favor de Dios. Incluso, llegaron a pensaron que Dios protegía a los fieles dándoles muchos bienes. Parece que los apóstoles querían posiciones de poder y privilegios, pensando que Jesús iba a inaugurar un Reino basado en los reinos de los poderosos.
Jesús continúa trabajando en formar a sus apóstoles con su comentario que para un camello es fácil pasar por el ojo de una aguja que a un rico. Es posible que nosotros estemos también confundidos con este comentario. Sabemos que la pobreza no es buena- en su extremo la pobreza roba la persona de las posibilidades de desarrollar su mente y sus talentos. Una persona necesita suficiente dinero para participar en la sociedad como miembro productivo- con tiempo para una vida social y sus intereses personales. Y vemos que hasta la Iglesia pide dinero para mantener sus edificios y trabajos, y para pagar sus empleados. Entonces, ¿cómo podemos entender el mensaje?
Tal vez nos ayuda otras palabras de Jesús. ¡Qué difícil es para los que confían en las riquezas, entrar en el Reino de Dios!” El problema existe cuando estamos tan preocupados por los bienes del mundo que olvidamos la importancia de vivir según el mandamiento del amor que Jesús nos enseñó. El problema existe cuando no queremos preocuparnos por las necesidades del vecino y los pobres. El problema existe cuando pensamos que podemos comprar la felicidad. El problema existe cuando sacrificamos la comunidad por dedicarnos a ganar dinero. El problema existe cuando pensamos que podemos mantenernos seguros sin depender de otros.
Seguirle a Jesús con todo el corazón trae sacrificios, y hasta persecución. Pero seguirle a Jesús trae también felicidad y la promesa de unión con Dios aquí en la tierra como en el cielo. Debemos aceptar la invitación de Jesús de vivir como niños, con un corazón lleno de confianza y esperanza.