Fr. Rudy's Homilies

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 11, 2009

Reading 1
Wis 7:7-11
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.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 90:12-13, 14-15, 16-17

R. (14) Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!
Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
R. Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!
Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,
that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.
Make us glad, for the days when you afflicted us,
for the years when we saw evil.
R. Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!
Let your work be seen by your servants
and your glory by their children;
and may the gracious care of the LORD our God be ours;
prosper the work of our hands for us!
Prosper the work of our hands!
R. Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!

Reading II
Heb 4:12-13
Brothers and sisters: Indeed 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.

Gospel
Mk 10:17-30 or 10:17-27
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?" Jesus answered him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.
You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud;
honor your father and your mother." He replied and said to him, "Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth." Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, "You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."
At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.
All things are possible for God." Peter began to say to him, "We have given up everything and followed you." Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come."

or

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?"
Jesus answered him, "Why do you call me good?  No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother." He replied and said to him,
"Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth." Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, "You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.
All things are possible for God."

HOMILY

Two woodcutters were in a tree-cutting contest. Both were strong and determined, hoping to win the prize. But one was hardworking and ambitious, chopping down every tree in his path at the fastest pace possible, while the other appeared to be a little more laid back, methodically felling trees and pacing himself.

The go-getter worked all day, skipping his lunch break, expecting that his superior effort would be rewarded. His opponent, however, took an hour-long lunch; then resumed his steady pace.

 In the end, the eager beaver was dismayed to lose to his "lazier" competition. Thinking he deserved to win after his hard work, he finally approached his opponent and said, "I just don't understand. I worked longer and harder than you, and went hungry to get ahead. You took a break, and yet you still won. It just doesn't seem fair. Where did I go wrong?"

The winner responded, "While I was taking my lunch break, I was sharpening my axe."

Life eternal is through hard work not through riches or wealth.

In replying (v.17) Jesus shifts attention from himself by saying "goodness" is the quality of social relationships - that a person is good, only in company!   Jesus is "good" in His union with God. We are "good" only in society that is united with God in love. The commandments that follow take for granted, that it is in a person's social relations (doing justice and loving) that God is loved, goodness is practiced and eternal life is won! "Only God is good" is really saying that the other teachers available to this man are no bloody good!

Jesus reminds the man of the essence of the Torah (vv.19-20). When Jesus quotes the Torah of Moses, He names the social commandments - those dealing with a person's treatment of neighbour - commandments which a powerful person would be most prone to offend.   The man's reply shows that he has a desire to go beyond the external ritual obligations to God and synagogue. He has faithfully dealt justly with his neighbor. Jesus looked at him fondly (vv.21-22).

However, in a distorted society, where the poor lack, Jesus challenges, "whatever you have - give to them." Jesus offers a way to achieve a fulfillment (life and blessing) but the man preferred his riches. To give up what he had, threatens a social organization dominated by those who have economic power in their hands. Where the necessities of life can only be bought at a price - riches and the power riches provide are barriers that cushion people from vulnerability to know God's presence, love and the reception of God's blessings - or "eternal life"!  St. Matthew mentions that the man was young and therefore probably had inherited his wealth. He wanted to inherit, "eternal life". Jesus tells him that inherited wealth and inheriting the rewards of discipleship are in opposition.

In the Hebrew tradition, wealth was considered a blessing from God and marked a person's uprightness. This man was rich while others were poor.   For Jesus it meant that society was breaking the "giftedness" established by God. In the desert, God had given the people the precept that among them there should be no poor (Dt.15:4)! And therefore - no rich either!!

Jesus invites the man to break with society's values and follow a practice of promoting a system of gifting (Mk.10:23-25). The disciples show astonishment at the degree of commitment needed in the man's case. The metaphor of the camel and the eye of the needle (v.25) takes discipleship out of the difficult category and makes it a "mission impossible"!

Jesus asks this man to make a radical break with accepted social and financial practice. To love is to give.  To give life is to deny death. To increase in wealth does not prevent having to die. Giving is the only way if life is to continue. It was on this basis that Jesus interpreted the demands of God for this man and the blessing that flow from carrying out those demands - eternal life.

Through the history of Christianity, there have been rich who have abandoned everything to follow Jesus; many of the great saints were former rich people.   St. Anthony was a young Egyptian millionaire, who had inherited enormous estates and at the age of twenty went into a church at the moment when the priest was reading this gospel phrase: "Sell all you have and give it to the poor." He did that at once!  An exceptional case?

"Who then can be saved?" (v.26) is still the question. This is key to Mark's gospel. Jesus confronts the Zealot strategy which rates wealth as a blessing from God. Wealth belongs to this Torah-keeper, whom Jesus invites to break from his wealth to follow Him. Jesus than generalizes the man's difficulty; "My children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!" (v.24).

This challenges us readers to question whether wealth is the decisive factor in our social-values system. It is on the level of wealth that everything comes together in relations to receiving blessing and entrance to the reigning of God?   According to Jesus what matters is not what a person has or does. It is a person's readiness to be open to the strange ways of God! Sharing wealth creates a new system in which the whole of society can fulfill what Jesus asks here of this person: a system where there won't be any more rich and everyone can enter the reigning of God.

Jesus says this is not impossible for those who follow Him (v.27). They are related to the One, whose practice of promoting gifts links those who follow to God - for whom all things are possible!

The promise given to the disciples is not some kind of spiritual or interior life.   There are two times of blessing and life - now, and in the future. There is not a time of curse now that is recompensed by a time of blessing later on. Jesus promises a new society bringing material abundance to all. The old system of economic inequality will be subverted in the reigning of God here on earth!   Although St. Luke may give us an idealized picture of the first Christian community in Jerusalem, in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, this community discovered that when they sold their possessions things tended to multiply (Ac.4:34-35).

They didn't sell the houses in which they lived, for they met together in one another's houses (Ac.2:46). What they sold must have been the houses they had rented out to others. The result will be that, "none of their members was ever in want" (Ac.4:34). This is only possible in a community. Jesus dared to hope for a "kingdom" or world-wide community, structured so that there would be no poor and no rich.

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