"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

28th SUNDAY (B) October 10, 2021

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

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

PRE-NOTE: If you would like to see further reflections on these Sunday readings by diverse writers go to Volume 2: https://preacherexchange.com/volume2.htm



Today’s gospel has a poignant, very human moment. In the midst of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem with his disciples, a man runs up, kneels before him and asks, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Our heart goes out to this enthusiastic, earnest man. There are moments in Mark’s gospel when Jesus expresses very intense human feelings: he gets exasperated with his disciples; rebukes an unclean spirit; is impatient with the Pharisees; disappointed by the unbelief of even his own townspeople, etc.

In today’s gospel the other side of Jesus’ humanity comes forward, "Jesus looking at him, loved him…." What was it that drew Jesus to him? The man who fell on his knees before Jesus calls him "Good teacher." He is someone who wants more in his life and he is asking Jesus to give it to him. Does that tie into any disquiet in our own lives? What have we got and what more are we looking for? Are our possessions and distractions getting in the way of the deeper, more permanent riches we long for? Have we spent time and efforts focused on getting more in life, but now recognize a poverty that reveals empty spaces in our spirit?

The man senses that Jesus has something which, despite all his personal efforts, he cannot provide for himself – not just the good life, but eternal life. Since he can’t provide for himself, he has to do something. What? He is already living a good life according to the Torah, but still finds himself lacking. The man’s response to Jesus may sound arrogant, or self-aggrandizing. He simply states a fact: "Teacher all of these I have observed from my youth." This is the moment Mark tells us, "Jesus looking on him, loved him and said, ‘You are lacking one thing. Go sell what you have, give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, then come follow me."’

The vast majority of people who hear this gospel are not rich. But isn’t there a tendency in us to label our possessions as "blessings," as if they are signs of God’s favor on us? In response to what Jesus told him, the man probably thought if he followed Jesus’ directions and gave up his "blessings" there would be nothing that would be a sign of God’s favor on him. He would have no thing and no one else – but Jesus – and in Jesus, he would have had what he was searching for, "eternal life."

In the eyes of the world’s "wise," the man had it all. We tend to do the same, evaluate a person’s worth by their education, financial achievement, homes and even their solid family life? There are examples of people of wealth among Jesus’ followers. In Luke’s gospel there were women who supported Jesus. They did not have to sell everything. Also in Luke, Zaccheus, a rich man, gave half his possessions to the poor – not all.

But the rich man in today’s story is asked to give up everything. For some people that is what it will take to follow Christ; that is what he is asks of them. While we may not be rich, is there something that we have to let go of to follow Christ more closely?

Here is where our first reading can be a guide for us. We might even join with the sage, who presents King Solomon’s prayer: "I prayed and prudence was given me." (Another name for "prudence" is "wisdom.") In the scriptures wisdom is personified as a woman and is valued as a treasure beyond price. We can’t buy wisdom, just as the man’s wealth could not buy eternal life.

There are various forms of wisdom in the scriptures. One is a wisdom for everyday practical matters. For example, people who were good carpenters, gifted artists and craftspeople were said to possess wisdom. God promised to give Solomon whatever he would ask for. His request is worded in his prayer for wisdom. He is asking for the practical kind of wisdom, praying to be a judicious ruler. Solomon had great wealth, but he prays for a treasure – wisdom – he cannot buy. If this wisdom is given him it will give true meaning and purpose to his life. Does that sound like something we should be praying for?

While Solomon is drawn to wisdom’s never-fading splendor, the man in the gospel is drawn to Jesus for eternal life. In the New Testament Jesus is associated with wisdom. He asked the rich man to give up the very proofs that were signs to him that he was favored by God. Jesus really did want this man to follow him and he wanted to give this man what he was searching for – eternal life. In that, Jesus wasn't just offering unending life, but a deeper, more satisfying life than the man had ever known, even with all his riches. If he accepted these new "riches" offered him by Jesus, he might not have the former external "proofs" of his favor before God, but he would know by his faith that he was forgiven, had a new life and was in God's favor. He would also have a new kind of external "riches" as well – a community of friends, a new family in Christ – "a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands...." Just as Jesus had promised.

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

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/101021.cfm