28 Sunday of the Year B
Gn 7:7-11; Dt 4:12-13; Mk 10:17-30
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’, Cycle B, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2008 and republished in Viet Nam 2011. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers would like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar and/or to suggest English phrases and expressions, it would be greatly appreciated by the author, whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context as to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable. That might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
The message of today’s gospel calls the faithful to examine or re-examine the priority of values in life. In the gospel, Jesus teaches his apostles the important values for the establishment and spread of the kingdom of God. In the Christian scale of values, the divine must have priority over the human and the human over the material. The author of the book of Wisdom today realizes that real wisdom comes from God. To possess that wisdom surpasses everything of the world. The gospel reminds us that discipleship requires a resolute faith and lasting trust in God. Discipleship requires us to pay a certain price.
There is a rich young man in today’s gospel who is seeking perfection. We admire this young man because he kept the divine commandments all his life. However, when Jesus told him to sell what he has, then to give to the poor in order to follow him, his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions (Mk 10:22). The young man does not want to pay the price to be Jesus’ disciple. He has received much, but does not want to share his possessions with the needy. He wants to keep his wealth in order to guarantee his material security and his retirement. His earthly possessions had kept him in bondage, not allowing him to follow Jesus to be his disciple. He did not have enough faith for faith has always been God’s call to detachment from earthly possessions.
God created man with material needs for existence and development as a person. Our attitude towards material goods must be an attitude of gratitude: gratitude towards God who provides everything. The Christian must remember material goods can become an obstacle to his/her spiritual life and his/her salvation as Jesus warns us: How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God (Mk 10:23). Jesus continues: 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 (v. 25).). That figure of speech: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle is an exaggerated figure of speech, strange to our ears. However, it was not so with the people of the Middle east, including the Jews and Jesus at that time. Therefore, it was not necessarily understood in a literal sense. That is why Jesus said: All things are possible for God (v. 27).
To be rich or poor is not an evil in itself. Wealth and poverty depends on our attitude toward material goods. According to the gospel spirit, it is wrong if a rich person acquires his wealth dishonestly, if he puts his heart into material goods and if he considers earthly goods as the end of life. Throughout the history of the church, some Christians have embraced the vow of poverty and put everything for the common use according to the gospel spirit of detachment. And Jesus promises those who have given up everything and followed him for his sake and the sake of the gospel, will receive a hundred times more now in this present age, and eternal life in the age to come (v. 29).
Not everyone can take the vow of poverty. However, everyone can take the spirit of poverty. The evangelical spirit of detachment should help us use material goods, but not to put his heart into earthly goods, not to consider them as the end and goal of life, but only a means for supporting life. Today’s Gospel calls us to look at ourselves and ask if there is anything that prevents us from following Jesus, anything that stands in the way of our relationship with God, anything that becomes an obstacle to our salvation. When somebody says this person or that person seems to be detached, it does not mean this or that person is careless, inattentive or neglectful, it only means this or that person is detached from worldly possessions. In order to live the spirit of detachment, the faithful needs to ask for the spirit of wisdom as to be able to consider riches as nothing in comparison to wisdom (Wis 7:8).
Have we heard of people who had everything, and yet they are restless and unhappy, because something is missing? When Saint Augustine left everything to follow Christ, then he found peace. In his ‘Confessions’, he makes a profound observation, saying: You have made us for yourself alone, O Lord. Our hearts will ever be restless until they rest in you’.
Prayer for the spirit of detachment from possessions:
Oh Lord Jesus!
To teach us a lesson,
you came down from heaven to live in poverty.
Forgive me for the times I wasted money.
For the times I was lazy and stingy,
unwilling to work and share in works of charity.
Teach me to follow your example,
as to avoid a decadent life
and to live the spirit of detachment
so that the spirit of the gospel may show in my life. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong