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Now the Spirit unites us in Jesus Christ, and in union with him we are here to offer our praise and petition to our Father in heaven. Let us reflect on the mystery of the Spirit moving us towards Jesus. Let us reflect on the mystery of being united in Christ, forming on earth his holy body. Let us reflect on the mystery that we are about to offer thanks to the Father through sharing in the sacred banquet. Sean Goan The demands of discipleship and the need to deny oneself in order to become a servant or a slave have already been mentioned in this part of Mark's gospel. Now in this story we are presented with a drama that puts flesh on that teaching. A rich man approaches Jesus to ask what must he do to inherit eternal life. He is given the basic answer which requires that he keep the commandments. However, as a practising Jew this is something he would already have known and clearly he is aware that something is still lacking in his life. Jesus senses his hunger and puts a radical challenge to him. He must rid himself of the attachment to wealth, wherein lies his security and social status, and trust himself completely to God by following Jesus. The man becomes sad and the onlookers are shocked as Jesus states that wealth is an obstacle to the true reception of the kingdom. For them wealth was considered a sign of divine favour but Jesus insists that it is a barrier and this is because the ideal of love — the driving force of the kingdom — goes beyond the keeping of commandments and demands that we empty ourselves of our attachments in order to become the servant of others. This is not just for the chosen few but part and parcel of the Christian vocation. Clearly we are not all asked to become St Francis of Assisi but we should be careful not to skip over this passage as though it were not intended for us. The challenge of detachment is one for every follower of Jesus. Reflection Since the Second Vatican Council Catholics have been called upon to read and pray the scriptures for, as St Jerome said, 'Ignorance of the scriptures is ignorance of Christ.' Thankfully many have responded to this call and have found their faith life enriched beyond measure and have discovered that the word of God is indeed alive and active. Sadly for many others the Bible is still a closed book. Let us pray for and work towards that day when all Catholics will feel at home taking up their Bible in order to deepen their relationship with the living God. **************************************** Michel DeVerteuil Textual Comments This passage, like last Sunday's, is in two clearly distinct sections: - verses 17 to 22: the story of Jesus and the wealthy man; - verses 23 to 27: a teaching of Jesus on wealth, although the phrase "he looked around" invites us to read this second section as a commentary on what happened in the first section.
Be creative in interpreting the words "inherit eternal life" as entering into a deeper kind of life through prayer and the following of Jesus, but also through deep relationships with other people, or involvement with some noble cause. The wealthy man is the model of the one who wants to enter into this deeper life the easy way, by drawing up a list of commandments - things to do and things to avoid - but eventually learns that the only way is to take the risk of leaving all and following one's Lord. Feel the pathos of the ending of verse 22, remembering those who live with regrets for not having taken the risk at a certain point in their lives. Jesus is the teacher, the leader or spiritual guide who is humble but firm and invites the man to make the leap of faith, not coldly or objectively, but himself getting emotionally involved with the man and taking the risk of rejection. The wealthy man can be for you a model of a community as well as a person; a nation, perhaps, or our modern civilization. Jesus can be a model of a great national leader or of the Church as a whole. Enter into the teaching on wealth as a journey, the first statement causing consternation, the second even more, and the third more still. Focus on the disciples, remembering when you understood for the first time how you had let yourself be influenced by the false values of the world; or then focus on Jesus, free in himself and his vision clear, so that he can stand by his values in the face of any opposition. Note however his gentleness and compassion even as he makes demands on others.
Thomas O'Loughlin Homily Notes 1. The sadness of the rich young man who goes away from Jesus is something that every one of us should be able to identify with to some extent. We know what it would take build the kingdom of God, to pursue holiness, and to create a culture of love - but it just seems too much. There are too many other commitments, so many urgent things to be seen to first, too much disruption to break the patterns of a lifetime, and the fear that one might just be thought a nutter! To take discipleship really seriously - when most people in our society think that religion is just a private affair for 'the religious', and indeed there will be several in our own families and immediate circle who take a similar view - seems just a little too 'over the top.' 2. Yet it can be done, and it has been done, and it is being done! 3. We can only have the energy, the strength, the joy to follow the path of discipleship if we ask the Father in prayer. For us alone, it is impossible to live as disciples; but if we ask for the Father's gifts of strength, and energy, and joy, then it is possible'because everything is possible for God'. 4. Instead of going away sorrowful, we are called to stay and pray for the help we need to be disciples. 5. This 'help,' this 'strength,' this 'energy,' this 'joy' is what in traditional western jargon has been given the name 'grace' -but using that word is not helpful in preaching: it is religious jargon that has become so debased through controversy that it obscures more than it reveals to the average listener. So avoid the term 'grace' and use a series of words with a common meaning in its place. 6. This need for the Spirit's help and presence if we are to follow Jesus's path to the Father points out three other important truths: First, the life that the young man could not follow is not something that can be partitioned off from the rest of life: it is not something that is for a special group of devotees such as nuns or
monks; nor for just one or two aspects of life. Everyone is called to set out on this journey, what it involves is different for each of us. What is common is that it involves every aspect of our lives: every part of our lives can contribute to the kingdom, and every aspect can contribute to its frustration. Second, following Jesus is not simply taking on a philosophy of life or picking a particular path towards self-improvement. It is the opposite of the lifestyle guides found under the heading of 'body-mind-spirit' in an airport bookshop. To set out on the pilgrimage of faith is to establish a relationship with God and with others. This life is impossible without the gifts of God's help, strength, energy, and joy that come within this relationship of prayer by which we respond to the invitation to follow Jesus. Third, we tend to think of prayer as a only'private' thing - indeed, some people abandon fasting and prayer saying they would rather do something 'positive' for others. This idea fails to appreciate our situation as human beings. The rich young man could not bring himself to care for the poor, and most of us today find it just as difficult. In order to serve other humans, we need to ask the Father for his help and strength, far from removing us from concern for others, opens us up to God and God's energy opens us up to others. 7. This gospel's message is not an easy one. We have to accept our weaknesses and we have to turn towards the Father in prayer, and then embrace change with his strengthening help. We can make a fresh start in a few moments in the Prayer of the Faithful. ********************************** Scriptural Prayer Lord, we thank you for the deep relationships we have entered into through your grace with one of our children, a spouse, an intimate friend, a leader the kind of relationship that has given a new quality to our lives. People sometimes think they can run and kneel before someone and say "You are a good person; what must I do to have s deep relationship with you?" But as we know, it cannot happen like that; it isn't a matter of someone being good, because only God is good; not of learning off by heart a list of things to do. Something is still lacking: to experience that someone is looking deep into our souls and loving us, to feel that we could sell everything we own and distribute the money to the poor, because nothing in the whole world is more important than being with that person. Of course, many people's faces fall at this point, because they have things which they cannot let go, and so they go away sad, with a sadness that nothing will ever cure. "If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live." Martin Luther King Lord, how many people go away sad because they have never left everything to follow a noble cause. A modern poet once said, "Traveller, there is no path: paths are made by walking." Lord, forgive us that we use the commandments as an excuse for not stepping out in faith. Lord, help those of us who have authority in the Church to be more like Jesus. When people run up and kneel before us asking what they must do to inherit eternal life, we let our authority go to our heads;
we rattle off a list of commandments that Christians have learnt from their earliest years, when, like Jesus, we should invite them simply to walk with us. But that requires an inner freedom on our part, because the faces of some will fall when they hear our words, especially those who have great wealth. Lord, we thank you for the spiritual journey you h have led us on. When we first began to follow Jesus seriously we were anxious to acquire many virtues. Then, one day, quite suddenly, we realised how self-righteous we had become: * we found ourselves condemning others; * we heard a sermon on humility which touched us; * someone we had thought of as a sinner appeared to us as deeply spiritual. It was as if Jesus had looked round at us and said to us, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!" It was an insight that astounded us and it took us several weeks to accept it. Lord, we thank you that you insisted. Lord, when we see the pitfalls in the way of true holiness, and how even the virtuous find it difficult to enter there, we wonder, can anyone be saved. But that is a moment of grace because we understand then that spiritual growth is your work, and everything is possible for you. Lord, some nations in the world today have become very wealthy; no nation in history was ever as wealthy as they are. Yet their very wealth makes it impossible for them to become caring and sharing communities, and they go away sad because they cannot give up their present lifestyle. We thank you that our Pope and many other religious leaders have watched carefully what is happening there, and have turned round to warn us of the dangers of making economic growth our primary goal. Many are astounded because their own deepest aspiration is to become wealthy nations in their turn; but our leaders must insist that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a wealthy nation to enter your kingdom. Not that it is not possible - because all things are possible to you.
Illustrations: 1) The Freedom to Sing The French have a story about a millionaire in his palace who spent his days counting his gold. Beside the palace was a poor cobbler who spent his days singing as he repaired people's shoes. The joyful singing irritated the rich man. One day he decided to give some gold coins to the cobbler. At first the cobbler was overjoyed, and he took the coins and hid them. But then he would be worried and go back to check if the coins were still there. Then he would be worried in case someone had seen him, and he would move the coins and hide them in another place. During all this, he ceased to sing. Then one day he realized that he had ceased
to sing because of the gold coins. He took them back to the rich man and said, "take back your coins and give me back my songs." Gerry Pierse, Detachment and Freedom ________________________ 2) Shot in the Wallet The devil was on the prowl one day out to get the Christian. When he saw the Christian he shot one of his fiery darts and it struck the Christian in the chest. The Christian had on the breastplate of righteousness so he wasn't harmed. The devil shot at the Christian's head but that was protected by the helmet of salvation. The devil figured everyone has an Achilles' heel, so he shot at the Christian's feet that were shod with the gospel of peace so no harm was done. The Christian smirked and turned around to walk away. The devil fired an arrow into the Christian's wallet and killed him. Beth Quick, Mission: Impossible ___________________________ 3) Do All the Good Henry Thoreau said, "Be not merely good; be good for something." That was Jesus' challenge to the man who wanted to know what he could do to inherit eternal life. He had been good at making money, in being morally upright and keeping the commandments; but that is not the ultimate good: he must also give of himself and what he has in behalf of others. He needed to also realize that, "The gift without the giver is bare." John Wesley proposed an excellent guide to goodness. He said, and he practiced what he preached: Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, At all the times you can, As long as ever you can. Someone else has expressed the ideal of goodness in a wonderful way, saying, "I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore, that I can do, or any goodness that I can show to my fellow creatures, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again." Clement E. Lewis, When It's Twilight Time, CSS Publishing Company ____________________________________ 4) Real Wealth - Priorities God creates us with a variety of needs, desires, interests, talents, and opportunities. But these things don't define what we'll be. They're like the bricks, lumber, wallboard, shingles, and tiles we might see piled on the road near a construction site. It's what we make from the raw elements of our personalities that defines who we are; and this is where priorities and choices are crucial. Jimmy Carter, Sources of Strength, Random House, p. 230. ____________________ 5) The Failure that Looked Like Success
More than forty years ago, I heard a man describe two paintings he said he had at his home. I have never forgotten them even though I never saw them. One was of the figure in Jesus' story of the rich man whose crops produced so abundantly that he decided to pull down his barns and build bigger ones, and he said to his soul, "Soul, eat, drink, and have a great time, for tomorrow you die." The caption under this painting said: "The Failure that Looked Like Success." The other painting, the companion painting, was of Jesus dying on the cross, the crown of thorns on his head, his chin drooping against his chest, the crude nails in his hands, and all his friends off somewhere in hiding. The caption under this picture said: "The Success that Looked Like Failure." We would all like to be successful and fulfilled as persons; it is one of the dreams with which our culture imbues us. But when we listen to Jesus, we realize that success and fulfillment don't really come the way we often expect them to. They aren't the direct result of anything we can do to attain them. Instead, they're a gift from God and they simply happen when we are doing the right things with our lives. In God's eyes it is a whole lot better to be a success that looks like failure than a failure that looks like success. John Killinger, The Real Way to Personal Fulfillment ________________________________ 6) The Success Syndrome Harvard Medical School psychologist Steven Berglas has written a book called The Success Syndrome. He has found that individuals who in his word "suffer" from success have arrogance and a sense of aloneness. Insider trader Dennis Levine was asked by his wife why he needed the money from insider trading and he really had no answer. Levine says that when his income was $100,000, he hungered for $200,000, and when he was making $1 million, he hungered for $3 million. Berglas says that oddly enough people who find that $200,000 did not make them happy never asked themselves why they thought $300,000 would make them happy. Asked to prescribe a cure for the success syndrome, Berglas said, "What's missing in these people (Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken, Leona Helmsley) is deep commitment or religious activity that goes far beyond just writing a check to a charity." King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com ______________________ 7) We Want It Our Way The story of Faust by Goethe has become part of our heritage. Faust was a man who longed for romance, academic success, and wealth. Unable to find these on his own, he made a pact with the devil. If he could be granted his wishes, have his true worth made public and enjoy its fruits, then he would give his soul to the devil. Sure enough, he enjoyed marvelous romances, fabulous successes, and much wealth. Oddly enough, when the time came, he was unwilling to keep his part of the bargain. I wonder if there is a parallel here. We put Jesus off, promising, "Just one more of this and one more of that -- then I will be willing to go with you, Jesus." Are we not like little Fausts, wanting to have it our way? After all, we say, we deserve it! And what do we say to Jesus when he comes to claim us? Thomas Peterson, The Needle's Eye, CSS Publishing Company. _____________________ 8) Four Questions for Church Membership
A seminary professor named Stanley Hauerwas has a novel idea about how churches should receive new members. A teacher of Christian ethics at Duke University, he has written about the church's need for honesty and has called us to tell the truth as a "community of character." To this end, he has a modest proposal. Whenever people join the church, Hauerwas thinks they should stand and answer four questions: * Who is your Lord and Savior? The response: "Jesus Christ." * Do you trust in him and seek to be his disciple? "I do." * Will you be a faithful member of this congregation? The answer: "I will." * Finally, one last question: What is your annual income? You heard me correctly. When people join the church, Dr. Hauerwas thinks they ought to name their Lord and Savior and tell fellow church members how much money they make. It is obvious Hauerwas does not serve as a pastor of a congregation. His idea just wouldn't work, especially in the American church. Most church members believe salary figures are more sacred than prayer, and would quickly tell an inquisitive minister to snoop around somewhere else. What's more, parish experience tempers the questions a minister asks of church members. Most pastors quickly learn how to dance around the issue of money without ever naming it. William G. Carter, No Box Seats in the Kingdom, CSS Publishing.
9) "Oh Lord, hit him again!” The parish church was badly in need of repair. So the pastor called a special meeting to raise funds. At the assembly, the pastor explained the need of an emergency fund for plastering the roof and supporting pillars and for carrying out other items of repair. He invited the congregation to pledge contributions. After a brief pause, Mr. Murphy, the richest man in the parish, volunteered to give 50 dollars. Just as he sat down, a hunk of plaster fell from the ceiling on his head. He jumped up, looked terribly startled and said: “I meant to say 500 dollars.” The congregation stood silent and stunned. Then a lone voice cried out from the back: “Oh Lord, hit him again!” 10) Andrew Carnegie made millions in the steel industry. He worked hard helping the poor and underprivileged. Once a socialist came to see him in his office and soon was railing against the injustice of Carnegie having so much money. In his view, wealth was meant to be divided equally. Carnegie asked his secretary for an assessment of everything he owned and at the same time looked up the figures on world population. He did a little arithmetic on a pad and then said to his secretary. "Give this gentleman l6 cents. That’s his share of my money. 11) A wealthy older gentleman who married a young lovely woman He was beginning to wonder whether she might have married him for his money. So he asked her, "Tell me the truth: if I lost all my money, would you still love me?" She said reassuringly, "Oh honey, don’t be silly. Of course I would still love you. And I’d miss you terribly."
12) How to Catch a Monkey With a coconut, some roasted peanuts or rice and a string, tribal people living in the border of
forests in Africa, Sri Lanka and India have been trapping monkeys for centuries. At one end of the coconut, they open a hole that is big enough to allow a monkey's hand to push inside. However, the hole is too small for a monkey to remove his hand when he makes a fist. On the other end of the coconut, a string is firmly attached and tied to a tree trunk. The coconut trap, with roasted peanuts or roasted rice inside, is placed along a monkey's trail, and the trapper hides behind bushes with a net. The monkey smells the peanuts and is attracted to them. He puts his hand through the hole and grabs a handful of peanuts, after which it is impossible for him to remove his hand since he is unwilling to let go of the peanuts. Suddenly the trapper casts the net over the monkey and traps it. We too are attracted by different "peanuts" that can be detrimental to our spiritual and physical pursuits. Today’s gospel presents a rich young man who wants eternal life but will not relinquish “the peanuts" of riches. 13) The Success Syndrome: Harvard Medical School psychologist Steven Berglas has written a book called The Success Syndrome. He has found that individuals who in his word "suffer" from success have arrogance and a sense of aloneness. Insider trader Dennis Levine was asked by his wife why he needed the money from insider trading, and he really had no answer. Levine says that when his income was $100,000, he hungered for $200,000, and when he was making $1 million, he hungered for $3 million. Berglas says that oddly enough people who found that $200,000 did not make them happy, never asked themselves why they thought $300,000 would make them happy. Asked to prescribe a cure for the success syndrome, Berglas said, "What's missing in these people (Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken, Leona Helmsley), is deep commitment or religious activity that goes far beyond just writing a check to a charity." [James W. Fowler, Becoming Adult, Becoming Christian (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1984), 14) Destined to drown with his treasure: There is an old story about an 18th century man who was moving overseas. His life's savings of gold and silver coins were carried in a big money belt he wore around his waist. The ship hit an iceberg and started to go down. It was sinking so fast that many people had to jump in the water and swim to the lifeboats already launched. The man jumped in, but because he could not bear the thought of leaving that heavy money belt behind, he went to the bottom of the sea. The story ends with this haunting question: "Would you say that this man had his money, or that his money had him?" Jesus tells the story of such a man in today’s gospel. ---------------------------