|The Twenty-eighth Sunday in
Mark 10:17-30 or 10:17-27
As we mature, chronologically as well as spiritually, we move through stages of preferences. There was a time when we switched from wanting a candy bar to having a good conversation. In time we may have moved from having a good chat to being simply and quietly beside somebody as you both walked through the crunchy leaves of a fall afternoon. For the most part we prefer the tangible and their value has something to do with making us experience our personal value.
In today’s First Reading from the liturgy, preferences and pleadings are for a “wisdom which reduces the value of the tangible precious things to “sand” and “mire.” This “spirit of wisdom” replaces the necessity of possessions and power for self-esteem and public favor.
The author acknowledges that in the company of this wisdom, good things and riches were received. This wisdom has no handles or strings attached by which to know its true worth. Being so sense-bound, we find knowledge perhaps more valuable, because it can be more easily described, pointed to and is so practical.
In today’s Gospel we see this very tension between having and hoping, between possessing and being possessed by the things we possess.
A person of good intentions kneels down in front of Jesus and asks our question for us, “what’s the prerequisites for getting into heaven.” The person asking the question for us seems prepared to give evidence that he has all his bases covered; he does, but not home plate.
Jesus does not seem too impressed with the man’s law-bound correctness; He tells the man he lacks this wisdom which is “freedom from.” The man possesses too much to know himself without those things and so they possess him. This wisdom is a spiritual sense or awareness of what things are, where they come from and where they are meant to take the possessor.
If the disciples feel bad for the man who walks away in a downcast spirit, because of his riches, they themselves are challenged next by the address of Jesus. These are hard words for them and for us to hear as well. We have attachments to family, the things that money and hard work can buy and even our good reputations. We look around at each other and ask, “These are okay, aren’t they?” We wonder that maybe there are a few almost-angels who can slip through the “eye of the needle” perhaps, but for us it seems “impossible.”
After listening to these readings, you might just want to give everything you own to the Jesuits and you would feel safe and assured that you now had home-plate covered as well. If it were that easy, we’d be richer and you’d be still lacking wisdom as well as a place to sleep. Jesus is warning His disciples and us His followers about the dangers of the tangible as our salvation, dignity and essential value. What is “impossible’ for human beings is our accumulating salvation, heaven and life eternal on our own efforts. Riches, power and prominence fade at the feet of Jesus. In His company we possess our selves because He holds us sacred and compared to everything else, this identity is priceless. The wisdom of today’s readings is not so much having a knowledge about things, but a sense of preference. Family is an important sacred gift. Our homes, cars, boats and credit cards all have a relative value and importance, but our unrelated value, that is our absolute being grasped and possessed by nothing except Jesus, is “freedom from” and “freedom for.”
The man in today’s Gospel was being invited to a freedom “from” his
tangible identifying possessions and a freedom “for” a life of sharing
his self and gifts as a disciple. We are, in our turn, invited to
this same freedom “for” by “praying for,” “pleading for” and “preferring”
rather than being possessed by the demands of the insatiable thirst for
heaven through having. Having is not holding, but being held by Christ,
which allows our having to be the prelude to sharing and that is spiritual
maturity and true wisdom.
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