28th SUNDAY(B) October 14, 2018
Wisdom 7: 7-11; Psalm 90; Hebrews 4: 12-13; Mark 10: 17-30
by Jude Siciliano, OP
WELCOME to the latest email recipients of "First Impressions," the parishioners of St. James Parish in Petaluma, California.
Having wealth does not automatically condemn a person. Nor does poverty bring automatic sainthood. But, in today’s gospel, Jesus was challenging the common belief of his day: that riches were a sign of God’s favor. If you had wealth it was a reward for leading a good life. Jesus reverses this notion when he invites the rich man to, "Go sell what you have, give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, then come, follow me."
People pursue wealth thinking it will guarantee status, control, security and independence – as we commonly say, "the good life." What’s more, the rich man would have seen his wealth as approval by God, a reward for his good, and observant life. After Jesus reminds him of the commandments he replies, "Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth." In Jesus’ day the rich would have had more time and means to study and follow the Law. The illiterate poor could barely scrape by from day to day, with no time to study and learn ethical teachings and proper religious observances. Thus, they would appear non-observant, outside religious propriety and sinners.
The man had wealth and he kept the commandments – it seems he had it made! He asked Jesus, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Before responding, Jesus dismisses the man’s calling him "good." It’s not about titles and symbols of honor. Instead, Jesus turns the man’s focus to God. The laws he quotes guide our life to conform to God’s ways. But Jesus says more than the laws is required to have life. If the man wants "eternal life," Jesus invites him to sell all and follow him. It’s not just about keeping rules, customs and religious laws– it’s about following Jesus. And that requires complete surrender, putting our life and security, not in material goods, but in Jesus and his path to life.
If the man did give up his riches, what visible assurance would he have that he had God’s approval and the gift of life? He would have to keep trusting and following Christ. "All he would have" was Jesus. Would that be enough for him; would that assure him of God’s favor? Is Jesus enough for us? What signs do we look for; what do we need to assure us of God’s love?
Our first reading from the Book of Wisdom also puts focus on our lives. The author of the reading prays for "prudence." Prudence is the skill and good judgment in using our resources. It is guided and influenced by wisdom. The author’s prayer affirms the value of wisdom over riches and possessions.
Similarly, the second reading shows God’s involvement in the world by means of the word. It is a living word that exposes our true values. Those with riches may control a lot of human situations, but that doesn’t mean they have eternal life. The gospel reminds us that dependence on God, through Jesus Christ, brings us what is truly good and life-giving. In response to today’s readings we reflect on where and how our desire for status and security preoccupies us, and draws our attention and energies away from God.
Wait a minute! I am not rich and almost all the people who hear this gospel today aren’t either. Maybe we should just bracket the passage and label it, "does not apply to me." Before we do that, let’s give it a second look.
I just finished preaching at a parish in Petaluma, Ca., where they have a very active catechetical program for children. Such programs teach our young that we are called to serve God and not possessions, as a way to "eternal life." It isn’t only the subject matter taught to the students that conveys this message, but the obvious witness of the teachers’ lives. They are all volunteers. It takes time, energy and talent to train the young in their faith. These teachers are a sign to their students. They have put aside an emphasis on material goods, "left everything," to follow Christ and thus receive the gift of life he offers his followers.
The reading from Hebrews today describes God’s word as "living and effective…able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart." God’s word today may be calling us to think again about the question of possessions. It seems the disciples who heard what Jesus said to the rich man were bewildered, when they asked, "Then who can be saved?" They weren’t rich and what Jesus said would have been in contrast to what they had been taught. They too would have seen wealth and power as a sign of God’s favor; poverty as a punishment.
The rich man went away sad because he could not, or would not, give up his riches in favor of Christ. But the Gospels don’t say riches in themselves are evil. Nor does it seem the rich man’s riches made him a sinful person: he was a law-abiding and good man. But Jesus was asking him to go further in his faith life and become a full-fledged, totally-devoted follower.
That was the challenge for the rich man. What is it for us today? It puts a question to us: In what do we ultimately trust? Is it money, possessions, status, or power? Or, are we willing to put our trust in God? Not that this trust will guarantee an easy walk through life. Trusting in God does not mean we can relax, stop working and let God take care of us. But whatever life presents to us God will be our strength and security.
Another question before us today is: How much of our lives are we willing to invest in following Jesus? Will following him require us to put aside what will be to our advantage, but conflicts with our faith in Christ? Does our faith cost us anything, or have we just made compromises and avoided the demands faith has made on us? Who knows what we followers of Christ will be called to give up? But the gospel directs us to be prepared and willing to let go of whatever hinders our full commitment to Jesus and his ways.
Jesus has a last challenge to the rich man and to us: Are we willing to share what we have with the poor? We may not be rich, but there are always those who have less.
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
Lectio Divina--- Newry Center, Northern Ireland
Our Dominican Sister Marie Cunningham, OP, missioner in South Africa, recommends this rich resource by Fr Joseph Ralph OP. He provides a very full description of "Lectio Divina," an ancient method for reading and praying the Scriptures. Take a look:
JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Psalm 90: 12
Since I write several weeks ahead of publication, at the time I am writing this article, we have just completed a successful Campaign Nonviolence NC Week AND have begun the construction on our 9th Habitat for Humanity Catholic Coalition home. It has been an exciting week with nonviolent learning, actions, and prayers.
At the Habitat wall-raising ceremony, I reflected on the message in the poetry of Mattie Stepanek. Mattie was a young person who had muscular dystrophy and only lived to be fourteen years old. He was a self-declared poet and peacemaker. In his book of poems, Hope through Heartsongs (Hyperion, 2002), he states that "a heartsong is something deep inside each of us. It’s our sense of why we are here and how we can keep going. It is like a purpose. . .Heartsongs are usually easy to hear when we are young, but we sometimes get too busy or hurt or angry to listen to them as we get older. And just like any gift that isn’t cared for or used well, it is possible to forget how to listen to the message of each song. But even if we completely lose our heartsong, we can share someone else’s song until we are able to reawaken or recreate our own" (34). I began to think about what was my heartsong when I was a child and I realized that my heartsong has always been "home" and all the good things that happen in a loving home.
In one of his poems called "Thought S’pan," Mattie writes,
"Everyone has a happy thought that inspires them to fly into their future"
For me, after thirty-one years of volunteering with Habitat for Humanity of Wake County, my heartsong of "home" has certainly flown me into my future. But there have also been days when I have had to lean on other’s heartsongs in order to be able to continue contributing to the seemingly impossible task of the importance of safe, decent affordable housing in the potential for human growth. The wisdom of my heart tells me so. Seeing so many kind-hearted people at Habitat Saturday certainly re-kindled again what "home" means to me.
What heartsong have you had since childhood? Are you still listening to it? Has it gotten buried? Have you connected with others that share your heartsong?
May all of you gain and nourish your wisdom of heart.
---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS
Director of Social Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
28th SUNDAY (B) October 14, 2018
Wisdom 7: 7-11; Psalm 90; Hebrews 4: 12-13; Mark 10: 17-30
by Jude Siciliano, OP
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 one thing. Go, sell what you have
and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven;
then come, follow me."
If the man did give up his riches, what visible assurance would he have that he had God’s approval and the gift of life? He would have to keep trusting and following Christ. "All he would have" would be Jesus to assure him of God’s favor?
So we ask ourselves:
POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES
"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."
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:
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285
For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/
Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:http://www.pfadp.org/
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St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas
3150 Vince Hagan Drive
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