by Fr. Tommy Lane
We could imagine that for anyone to live at the time of Jesus and meet Jesus in person it would be a great privilege and grace. I am sure that all of us here would like to have been in Palestine on that day when Jesus met the man who asked him what he must do to inherit eternal life, as we heard in today’s Gospel (Mark 10:17). We would like to have met with Jesus too and spoken to him. We would remember it for the rest of our lives. We read in the Gospels of so many people meeting Jesus and going away completely transformed. So many people who met Jesus were healed of illnesses. So many people who met Jesus went away happy. But in the Gospel today a man meets Jesus and goes away sad (Mark 10:22). It is the only time in all the Gospels that someone who was called by Jesus went away sad. This meeting between the man and Jesus showed such promise and yet ended so badly.
The disturbing thing is that we can see aspects of ourselves in this man also which begs the question, “are we going away sad or happy when we meet Jesus in the many ways in which we meet him?” Let’s look at some of the things we may have in common with the man.
1. In the early Church in the years immediately after Pentecost this teaching of Jesus was lived in a radical way. We know from reading the Acts of the Apostles that the early Christians in Jerusalem sold all their possessions keeping nothing for themselves and shared everything in common. It is difficult to know for how many years that radical form of living continued in Jerusalem but we know that it did not continue for too many years.
2. Jesus does call some people now to radically give up everything as he called the man in today’s Gospel. We can think of all those in religious vows in the Catholic Church who take a vow of poverty. Different religious congregations take different vows but most take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Priests and religious who take the vow of poverty have no personal possessions to enable them to be more dedicated to God but their religious congregation provides for all their temporal and physical needs. Some of the saints were called to be particular examples in the vow of poverty e.g. St. Francis of Assisi.
3. Diocesan priests like me take two vows, the vow of celibacy and obedience. Even though we do not take a vow of poverty we aspire to live with simplicity of life and not to live in a way that would be an obstacle to our following of Jesus. That is also the way that most people who read today’s Gospel understand it as applying to their own personal lives. You do not sell everything but you do not want anything you own or possess to be an obstacle in your relationship with God. You want to have your heart focused firmly on God. You do not want to be a slave to mammon, you want to put God first in your life. When we have more than we need we naturally want to help those who are in need. So the Catechism of the Catholic Church states,
In his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself. The ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others, first of all his family. (Catechism of the Catholic Church §2404)
4. We do not have to see Jesus’ command to the man - go, sell, give, come, follow - as applying only to money. The one thing in which we are lacking may be something else. We may be lacking in some virtue. We may be proud or selfish or lustful and thus lacking in humility or altruism or purity or heart. In my ministry I have discovered that many people really know the one virtue they are lacking in or need to grow in. Many people are not blind to themselves but are sufficiently sensitive to be aware of how they can grow in holiness. We almost certainly know what is the thing lacking in our life and how the Lord is challenging us to grow in following him. As our second reading from Heb 4:12-13 said, the Word of God shows up our secret emotions and thoughts, everything is uncovered before the Word of God.
When we do respond to Jesus’ challenge, Jesus promises us, as he promised the man in today’s Gospel, “treasure in heaven.” (Mark 10:21) Jesus wants only what is best for us and if we take up his challenge to us, whatever it may be, we can be sure that it will bring us only happiness. We want to do whatever the Lord asks of us, we want to follow him that we may have treasure in heaven.
More material for the Twenty-Eighth Sunday
Related Homilies: Our Treasure in Heaven will be our Corporal Works of Mercy
Second Reading: Your Word is a Lamp for my Steps
stories about money