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28th SUNDAY (B) October 11, 2015

Wisdom 7: 7-11; Psalm 90; Hebrews 4: 12-13; Mark 10: 17-30

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

Welcome to the latest email recipients of "First Impressions," the hospitable parishioners of St. Aloysius Parish, in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Body language reveals a lot about a person and what they are really saying. If a person smiles while they talk to you, but are standing up close with clenched fists – you better be on your guard. But if the person is smiling with an outstretched hand for a handshake, or with open arms for an embrazo, prepare for a delightful encounter.

The gospel writers often help us understand a person’s disposition by describing their physical demeanor. Mark begins today’s story of the exchange between Jesus and the rich man by describing the man’s bodily dispositions: "A man ran up, knelt down before him and asked him, ‘Good teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life?"’ His rush to talk to Jesus and his humble demeanor speak favorably for him.

Mark tells us the man meets Jesus as he is "setting out on a journey." Jesus is not traveling around the countryside stopping to visit friends and relatives. In the next chapter Mark will tell us that Jesus enters Jerusalem. He is deliberately going to the place where he will die and he has been inviting people to become his disciples by following him, "on the way." That’s where the man encounters Jesus, "on the way." From the man’s body language we wonder if he is anxious to join Jesus on the road to Jerusalem. Questions comes to mind: Will he become one of the disciples? Might his name be listed along with the other apostles? Will this diligent and enthusiastic man become a 13th apostle?

The man admits to having obeyed the commandments and we learn he has many possessions. The common belief at the time was that possessions were a sign that a person was being blessed by God. He is a good man and he has a lot in his life. But on his own there is one thing he still lacks, "eternal life."

Things start off well for the man. When Jesus reminds him of the commandments he responds, "Teacher all these I have observed from my youth." The man’s life sounds very complete; he is a good person and he has possessions for a comfortable life. Is he smiling at this point of the exchange with Jesus? If he is, he won’t be for long. What Jesus says next would have changed the smile to a grimace.

The man has done everything required of him, until that point. Jesus is well disposed towards him. Mark says, "Jesus, looking at him, loved him." Then Jesus asks the man to put aside what would have made him feel secure and blessed in his relationship with God – his wealth. The man had all he needed and wanted and Jesus asked him to give it up. If he did give away his possessions, he must have reasoned, what would he have to show that he was in good standing before God? The answer was staring him in the face. He would have Jesus and that would be more than enough. With Jesus his journey would have taken him to Jerusalem. He would have seen Jesus die, experience the resurrection and then, with the other disciples, he would have been gifted with what he was so earnestly desiring, "eternal life."

Jesus didn’t ask the man to be "spiritually poor." He asked him to give up his material possessions. Then Jesus goes on to tell his startled disciples how hard it would be for anyone with wealth to enter the kingdom of God. Weren’t riches a sign of God’s pleasure? No wonder the disciples’ response to what Jesus said was astonishment

In recent weeks we have heard Jesus tell his disciples to put aside their ambition and desire for power. The instruction on discipleship continues. Today we hear him tell them to detach themselves from possessions. The rich man is a good person, but he cannot let go of what he has to receive the riches of following Jesus and his sought-after eternal life. Ordinary religious practice and observances are not enough. Jesus asks the extraordinary from his followers, not only giving up possessions, but their very lives, to follow him into life.

The rich man fades into the background. Now Jesus engages those already following him, his disciples. He says twice, "how hard" it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God and then, "How hard it is to enter the kingdom of God." Now he is speaking to his disciples who have no riches. To make his point more vivid he adds, "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." This no watering down what he just said and the disciples are rightly astonished. They respond, "Then who can be saved?"

Jesus then speaks the "grace response" that lies behind each of his teachings and actions. "For human beings it is impossible but not for God. All things are possible for God." Even a very good person cannot respond to God on their own. We cannot follow Jesus’ way without God’s grace – especially since his way leads to Jerusalem and the giving of his life. He has told them that following him will require giving up all thought of gaining privilege and power. They must accept God’s kingdom like children who can claim no power or rights on their own (10:13-16). Jesus’ teaching is concretized in the story of the rich man whom he looks upon with love and tells to sell all his possessions. Then, when he has nothing, Jesus will continue to love him, not for his social standing or possessions, but for himself. Just as Jesus loves us.

The commitment to follow Jesus is total. We are not able to achieve what is of the greatest value, eternal life, on our own. However with the gift of grace we receive life because, not having anything of our own, we are totally dependent on God. Jesus is asking that we make a total commitment to him, trusting God in our state of littleness. What Jesus says previously now applies to the rich man. "I assure you that whoever does not accept the reign of God like a little child shall not take part in it (10:15).

Okay. I admit I am skirting around taking Jesus’ message literally: "Go, sell what you have and give to the poor…." Well, I protest, I’m not rich. Nor are most of the people in the Harlem parish where I am about to go to preach. So, I guess we can just skip over Jesus’ talk about riches and stamp this section of Mark’s gospel, "Not Applicable." But of course it is applicable. We must face the hard reality of letting go of our riches, or whatever we cling to for security. It is not easy for us personally or, as Pope Francis recently reminded us in America, for our church and our nation. It’s obvious that being a wealthy and powerful nation has not given us security and eternal life feels very elusive to many.

No facile answers here. All of us will have to ask for the gift of wisdom to know how to respond concretely to Jesus’ call to "sell what you have." As a response to the gospel the Wisdom reading is of help. It prompts us to pray for "the spirit of wisdom" (7:7). The speaker in the passage chooses wisdom over everything else. It’s God’s gift to help us reflect on our unique journey and make prudent choices according to God’s ways. (Cf. "Justice Bulletin Board" below)

Wisdom will help us discern what exterior possession, or interior disposition, we must put aside to follow Jesus and receive life. The story of the rich man makes it clear that even living an upright life is not enough to enter the reign of God – for that we must rely completely on God.

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:


"Our revolution comes about through tenderness, through the joy which always becomes closeness and compassion, and leads us to get involved in and to serve the life of others."
—Pope Francis while in Cuba


I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepter and throne
Wisdom 7: 7-8

Today’s passage reminded me of a story that I heard many years ago about a man named George W. Carroll. He was a wealthy Texas philanthropist who gave large sums to church causes. After he had lost considerable wealth during the Great Depression of the 1930’s, Carroll was asked, "Aren’t you sorry now that you gave all that money away?" He answered, "No, because all I kept for myself is lost, and only that which I gave away has been preserved." What a remarkable piece of wisdom he offers us today when our society judges by what we possess.

St. John Chrysostom (347-407 A.D.) teaches that refusing to share wealth with the poor is the same as stealing from them: "Not to share one’s goods with the poor is to rob them and to deprive them of life. It is not our goods that we possess, but theirs" (On Wealth and Poverty, 55). We are challenged to use wisdom to consider what we should do with what we have. How much of our faith lies in God and how much in our possessions?

In the Book of Wisdom, written in Greek about 100 B.C., and throughout the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, wisdom is portrayed as knowing how to live rightly in God’s eyes. Consider this wisdom from Pope Francis: "[W]e all must strip ourselves of this worldliness: the spirit opposing the spirit of Beatitudes, the spirit opposing the spirit of Jesus. Worldliness hurts us. It is so very sad to find a worldly Christian, sure — according to him — of that security that the faith gives and of the security that the world provides. You cannot be on both sides. The Church — all of us — must strip herself of the worldliness that leads to vanity, to pride, that is idolatry."( If you wisely assess your life at this moment, where are you spending your spirit?

I offer these three bits of wisdom because they give us a clear understanding of how a Christian life, well-lived, looks very different than society’s version of a well-lived life. At the end of your life, when all the tinseled things are gone, how will you have lived?

Want to embrace the wisdom of Christian life more fully? Check out > get involved > social justice. . .and step out in faith.

----Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Coordinator of Social Justice Ministries Sacred Heart Cathedral--Raleigh, N.C.


Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.

From today’s Gospel reading:

[Jesus said to the rich man]

"You are lacking in one thing. Go sell what you have

and give to the poor and you will have riches in heaven;

then come, follow me."


Each of us will have to ask for the gift of wisdom to know how to respond concretely to Jesus’ call to "sell what you have." Wisdom will help us discern what exterior possession, or interior disposition, we must put aside to follow Jesus and receive life. The story of the rich man makes it clear that even living an upright life is not enough to enter the reign of God – for that we must rely completely on God.

So we ask ourselves:

  • What in my life is hindering me from following Jesus more closely?
  • What first steps must I make to put that aside?


"The use of the death penalty cannot really be mended. It should be ended."
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick

Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

  • Andre L. Fletcher #0130628 (On death row since 12/9/99)
  • Terry A. Hyatt #0199877 (2/7/99)
  • Cerron Hooks #0561692 (2/9/00)

----Central Prison 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh 27699-4285

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the webpage of the Catholic Mobilizing Network:


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If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

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If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.

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(These CDs have been updated twice in the last five years.)

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Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilias Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.

4."First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.

Thank you and blessings on your preaching,

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

St. Albert Priory

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736



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