TWENTY-EIGHT SUNDAY: Cycle B 2018: + WIS 7:7-11; HEB 4:12-13; MK 10:17-30
When offered the choice between true knowledge or riches, Solomon prays for wisdom. When given the choice between following Jesus or remaining attached to his riches, the man chooses his possessions. God’s word challenges us to be attached to Jesus, and to him alone. Seems our readings are about choices.
Let’s take a closer look at today’s Gospel. A rich young man asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” In response, Jesus, after looking at him with love, says to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor.”
Selling what you own is a pretty radical thing to do. Just think what you own: a house, a bed, a car, … and that’s just the beginning …. there’s also a computer, a cell phone, a T.V. , etc. etc.
Early in Christian history, people who sold everything they owned set up religious orders so they could live together and share what they needed. ..e.g. St Francis. As a result, Jesus’ exhortation to sell what you have and give to the poor is usually interpreted as a call to the religious life. Understood in that way, Jesus’ advice to the rich young man is one of the evangelical counsels of perfection… poverty, chastity and obedience. It explains what we have to do to be perfect in this life.
But here’s a puzzle worth noticing: You don’t have to be perfect to go to heaven. You don’t have to be a member of a religious order to go to heaven. The rich young man was asking Jesus about going to heaven: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The answer Jesus gave him should have explained to him what you have to do to get to heaven. A counsel of perfection is by its nature not an answer to the rich young man’s question.
Or to put it another way. If selling all he has and giving it to the poor is what the rich young man needs to do to inherit eternal life, what about everybody else? Does everybody have to sell what he has in order to go to heaven? If we don’t sell everything we have, are we going to hell?
The answer to this puzzle is to think about Mark’s description of the young man asking Jesus the question: we don’t even know his name … (we know the name of the tax-collector whom Jesus called … “Matthew” … we know his name because he chose to follow Jesus immediately … and became one of the four Evangelists!) But all we know all about this young man is that he is rich. In other words, his gift lies in his wealth!
But aren’t there many types of gifts? … each peson here has many gifts: gifts of education and learning, musical gifts ( Speaking of which, at LAUDS this morning I couldn’t help but notice that the music of the hymn we sang was composed by Fr Chrysogonous back in 1976. Fr Chrysogonous passed away in November, 2008, app 10 yrs ago, but the gift of music he shared with us is still being given to us in service to this community. Then there are also mechanical, electronic and computer gifts, … organizational and leadership skills, etc. But whatever a person’s gifts are, they are meant to be given back in service to the Lord. We cannot bury our gifts or our talents in the ground and hope to please the Lord.
So, here is what we need to do to inherit eternal life: we need to follow Jesus and use our gifts to the full by serving others when we do.
Or, if we don’t want to do that, like the rich, young man, we can go away sad.