PRE-NOTE: If you would like to see further reflections on these Sunday readings by diverse writers go to Volume 2:https://preacherexchange.com/volume2.htm
Today’s gospel has a poignant, very human moment. In the midst of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem with his disciples, a man runs up, kneels before him and asks, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Our heart goes out to this enthusiastic, earnest man. There are moments in Mark’s gospel when Jesus expresses very intense human feelings: he gets exasperated with his disciples; rebukes an unclean spirit; is impatient with the Pharisees; disappointed by the unbelief of even his own townspeople, etc.
In today’s gospel the other side of Jesus’ humanity comes forward, "Jesus looking at him, loved him…." What was it that drew Jesus to him? The man who fell on his knees before Jesus calls him "Good teacher." He is someone who wants more in his life and he is asking Jesus to give it to him. Does that tie into any disquiet in our own lives? What have we got and what more are we looking for? Are our possessions and distractions getting in the way of the deeper, more permanent riches we long for? Have we spent time and efforts focused on getting more in life, but now recognize a poverty that reveals empty spaces in our spirit?
The man senses that Jesus has something which, despite all his personal efforts, he cannot provide for himself – not just the good life, but eternal life. Since he can’t provide for himself, he has to do something. What? He is already living a good life according to the Torah, but still finds himself lacking. The man’s response to Jesus may sound arrogant, or self-aggrandizing. He simply states a fact: "Teacher all of these I have observed from my youth." This is the moment Mark tells us, "Jesus looking on him, loved him and said, ‘You are lacking one thing. Go sell what you have, give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, then come follow me."’
The vast majority of people who hear this gospel are not rich. But isn’t there a tendency in us to label our possessions as "blessings," as if they are signs of God’s favor on us? In response to what Jesus told him, the man probably thought if he followed Jesus’ directions and gave up his "blessings" there would be nothing that would be a sign of God’s favor on him. He would have no thing and no one else – but Jesus – and in Jesus, he would have had what he was searching for, "eternal life."
In the eyes of the world’s "wise," the man had it all. We tend to do the same, evaluate a person’s worth by their education, financial achievement, homes and even their solid family life? There are examples of people of wealth among Jesus’ followers. In Luke’s gospel there were women who supported Jesus. They did not have to sell everything. Also in Luke, Zaccheus, a rich man, gave half his possessions to the poor – not all.
But the rich man in today’s story is asked to give up everything. For some people that is what it will take to follow Christ; that is what he is asks of them. While we may not be rich, is there something that we have to let go of to follow Christ more closely?
Here is where our first reading can be a guide for us. We might even join with the sage, who presents King Solomon’s prayer: "I prayed and prudence was given me." (Another name for "prudence" is "wisdom.") In the scriptures wisdom is personified as a woman and is valued as a treasure beyond price. We can’t buy wisdom, just as the man’s wealth could not buy eternal life.
There are various forms of wisdom in the scriptures. One is a wisdom for everyday practical matters. For example, people who were good carpenters, gifted artists and craftspeople were said to possess wisdom. God promised to give Solomon whatever he would ask for. His request is worded in his prayer for wisdom. He is asking for the practical kind of wisdom, praying to be a judicious ruler. Solomon had great wealth, but he prays for a treasure – wisdom – he cannot buy. If this wisdom is given him it will give true meaning and purpose to his life. Does that sound like something we should be praying for?
While Solomon is drawn to wisdom’s never-fading splendor, the man in the gospel is drawn to Jesus for eternal life. In the New Testament Jesus is associated with wisdom. He asked the rich man to give up the very proofs that were signs to him that he was favored by God. Jesus really did want this man to follow him and he wanted to give this man what he was searching for – eternal life. In that, Jesus wasn't just offering unending life, but a deeper, more satisfying life than the man had ever known, even with all his riches. If he accepted these new "riches" offered him by Jesus, he might not have the former external "proofs" of his favor before God, but he would know by his faith that he was forgiven, had a new life and was in God's favor. He would also have a new kind of external "riches" as well – a community of friends, a new family in Christ – "a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands...." Just as Jesus had promised.
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/101021.cfm
"I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me."
I love when we have the liturgical readings from the biblical literature of Wisdom. What I like is that the author of the text and their audience are not waiting to be saved. They are seeking a way to make life better based on their experiences. Walter Vogels, in his book, Words of Wisdom, (Novalis, 1999) states, "Wisdom literature speaks of God’s trust that people will discover from experience how they should live. The wise ponder life’s complexities and learn how to think of themselves and to relate to others and to God." Wisdom, Vogels says, "is deeply religious, since it is based upon a profound belief in God the Creator, who has ordered the world. As humanity grows and gradually arrives at better insights, the border between order and chaos is constantly pushed back" (28). God trusts God’s creation to discern the way forward through experience and through listening and seeking the wisdom of others. Vogels names it, "creation theology," as opposed to salvation-history theology that we more often hear in liturgies. Using both theologies and adding the call of the prophets, we have the fullness of the texts from the Bible.
It seems like we need more people in search of wisdom these days. Sure, we learn a lot of information using the internet but that is not achieving the reception of wisdom. Vogels presents the three streams in the believing community as priest, prophet, and sage. While people regularly concern themselves with the laws and order of the community, and sometimes assume the charismatic prophetic role, rarely, if ever, do we consider our wisdom role. As Vogels states, "People would no longer have the easy way out of asking others for clear-cut answers. They would have to struggle honestly with life and find out for themselves what had to be done, and at what point" (29). The complexity of problems in our world today calls us to put on the beard of the sage. "Jesus is often seen as a prophet, but he was even more a sage…Jesus, like all of us, learned through his experience and grew because of it: ‘And Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and men’" (Luke 2:52), notes Vogels.
Our world would be a different, more just and loving, place if we connected with and cherished lovely Lady Wisdom more abundantly.
----Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS, Director,
Office of Human Life, Dignity, and Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up,
knelt down before him and asked him,
"Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?
The rich man in today’s story is asked to give up everything. For some people that is what it will take to follow Christ; that is what he is asks of them.
So, we ask ourselves:
"Love all my friends and all the friendships that I have made. They are like the sky. It is all part of life, like a big full plate of food for the soul. I hope I left everyone a plate of food full of happy memories, happiness and no sadness."
—Last words of Quintin Jones before he was executed on May 19, 2001 at Huntsville Prison, Texas. Media witnesses were not admitted to his execution.
This is a particularly vulnerable time for state and federal prisoners. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of the inmates listed below to let them know we have not forgotten them. If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285
For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/
On this page you can sign "The National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty." Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:http://www.pfadp.org/
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