Wis 7:7-11; Ps 90:12-17; Heb 4:12-13; Mk 10:17-27
October 10, 2021
As mentioned at the beginning of Mass today the Lord’s message seems especially severe regarding the criteria for inheriting eternal Life, i.e., for going to Heaven. These readings would usually be the perfect setup for a stewardship homily. How are we using the time, talent and treasure that God has bestowed on us? I thought today I would start out today with perhaps an update on how we might be already moving in the right direction as a small community out here Kanab.
You will notice in the bulletin today I have itemized some of the key ways we have helped to promote the Kingdom of God…(read different donations /assessments). I would also like to acknowledge all the ‘off-balance sheet’ contributions made by our parishioners in their various types of volunteer work and service in the parish as well as throughout Kane and Coconino Counties. We have a small but very faithful group who gather for daily Mass, as well as weekly Adoration and rosaries. Thank you.
So, what’s the big deal with the rich young man in today’s gospel? Why walk away so sad? He seems to be on the right track. He’s likely one of the local stars. He actually KNOWS the Commandments and is keeping them, i.e., he is avoiding the things that he should NOT be doing. He shows enthusiasm by running up to Jesus and then reverence by kneeling before Him. He refers to Jesus as ‘Good Teacher’ which indicates he actually believes that Jesus is wiser than he is. That is probably not as common as we would like to believe. Why ever would he ask ‘what must I do?” Why not just let well enough alone?!
The young man knew there was something more. Despite his wealth and his knowledge he yearned for a deeper experience and deeper meaning for his life. It is for this reason that Jesus answers the way He does. It’s important to note what Jesus does NOT say, “Oh, wait a minute; you don’t have to give EVERYTHING away. How about just tithe about 10% now and bump up your donation to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal. Wanna be an usher?” No Jesus understands what the young man is really asking and what he really needs. Jesus wants the man to experience the life that God had created him for. Again, the man is not just asked to give all his stuff away, but he is then directed to follow Jesus. “Follow” does not just mean tag along and be ‘wowed’ by all the miracles and then tell others about them. To follow Jesus will also mean to imitate Jesus. He will eventually tell the disciples to ‘love one another as I have loved you.’ To be called to follow and imitate Jesus is to actually participate in the life of God. In such a way, we begin to experience the Kingdom of God even while here on earth. It’s a different dimension. A whole new reality. It’s scary. True love and the demands it makes on us is very scary, but It’s ultimately the only that really satisfies.
And THEN, as if Jesus had not sufficiently shocked, or ‘exceedingly astonished’ them as the gospel says, he throws in that such faithfulness is impossible for human beings. So what are we left with….? A camel passing through the eye of a needle? Really?! Well, we are left with GOD. GOD’s Wisdom. For nothing is impossible for God.
The young man is ultimately yearning for the same thing we all yearn for; the type of love that truly satisfies. The first reading today speaks most eloquently of this yearning:
I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred HER to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her, nor did I liken any priceless gem to her; because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand, and before her, silver is to be accounted mire.
Beyond health and comeliness I loved her, and I chose to have her rather than the light, because the splendor of her never yields to sleep. Yet all good things together came to me in her company, and countless riches at her hands.
Notice the recurring feminine pronoun as it refers to Wisdom. This is important when considering the pervasive spousal motif that runs through our biblical and sacramental tradition: God is pursuing His bride, Israel; Jesus is pursuing His bride, the Church. We say that the bible began with a wedding and ends with a wedding: With Adam and Eve the two become one flesh and what God has joined, humans cannot separate. Revelation tells us that at the end time the spotless bride is presented to the Lamb (Jesus) at the heavenly wedding banquet. Right in the middle of the bible is the Song of Songs which allegorically depicts God as a suitor pursuing his beloved. Just as marriage is a covenant, all the sacraments call us into and strengthen covenants with God and the other members of the Church. All parties are held accountable for a reciprocal relationship which does not make sense if all parties are not committed. So, while this ‘pursuing bridegroom’ motif probably does not resonate too strongly with most heterosexual men, the reference to a feminine Wisdom can put God more easily into a spousal context. This relational perspective helps us more deeply appreciate the type of love God intends for all of us.
Also, the reference to the ‘heart’ and the mysterious depth of God’s relational pursuit within us, that we hear in today’s psalm and second reading from Hebrews reminds us of the understanding of ‘prayer from the heart’ that the Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us in paragraphs #2562 – 63.
2562 Where does prayer come from? Whether prayer is expressed in words or gestures, it is the whole man who prays. But in naming the source of prayer, Scripture speaks sometimes of the soul or the spirit, but most often of the heart (more than a thousand times). According to Scripture, it is the heart that prays. If our heart is far from God, the words of prayer are in vain.
2563 The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place “to which I withdraw.” The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant.
Back to today’s psalm…
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of the heart.
R. (14) Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!
Again, Hebrews reminds of how the catechism describes prayer as coming from the heart. Praying with scripture leads us into this different dimension; this fuller state of being.
“(The) word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.”
How do we practically approach this mysteriously intimate relationship with Jesus? With GOD Himself?
We are left with Stewardship. Prayer; individually and with community. Receiving the the Body of Christ and becoming one Body; one Spirit in Christ. We are left with sharing everything God has given us with a special attention to the most desperate and impoverished among us.
Remember the original question was, “What must I do to inherit eternal life’?
Jesus wants our life. OUR WHOLE LIFE.