Amazing Things, Amazing Choices

Amazing Things, Amazing Choices
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
[Wis 7:7-11 . Ps 90:12-13, 14-15, 16-17. Heb 4:12-13. Mk 10:17-30.]

The word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword. That’s what the second reading on this 28th Sunday tells us, and it is undoubtedly true. That sword penetrates to depths of heart and soulthat nothing else can touch.
And, like god two-edged sword, the word of God cuts both ways.

You can be run through with the sword of God’s word and injured, or you can be run through with the sword of God’s word and allow the searing heat of its truth and love to heal you and transform you and raise you up.
It is your choice.

The man who comes up to Jesus in today’s Gospel was “run through” and injured by the word--it was his choice. This story is one of the great lessons in ethics in Mark’s gospel: Here, Jesus tells us what we have to do as Christians to attain salvation.

Let’s see who Jesus encounters here.
Mark tells us only that a man came up, ran up, and knelt down.
There is a sense of urgency here.
The man then addresses Jesus as “good teacher.”
He asks, “What do I have to do to gain eternal life?”
Somehow we have to think this doesn’t sit well with Jesus;
because His immediate response is not to give him the answer to his question, but to ask the man in return. “Why do you call me good?”

We have to remember that we are listening in on a 2000-plus-year-old conversation with the Jesus who actually was a man in history.
No pious Jew in that time would let this title "good" go by.
And that is just what Jesus is – a pious Jew – a real human being.
Did Jesus think the man was insincere?
Did he think the man was trying to flatter him?
Well, if you become familiar with the Gospel of Mark, you will see that every title people give Jesus is hazy and uncertain unless you consider the cross.

I like to think that Jesus’ answer amazed the man!
I’d like to think that Jesus is trying to “put the brakes on” here, and get this man who comes so urgently to him to stop and consider just what it is that he was asking, and just who it isthat he is talking to.

And when Jesus gives him the commandments to follow, the man himself replies with an amazing statement; can you imagine what the disciples must have thought?
The man says, “Teacher, all of these things I have observed from my youth.”
No adultery, no stealing, no killing, no lying, no defrauding; and he honored his father and mother!
Maybe the man was on to something about life—at least, about this life!

Jesus must have known now that the man was sincere, because the Gospel tells us, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him…”

And so Jesus tells him about the “one thing lacking”: sell everything and give it to the poor, come back and follow me.
That is Jesus’ “final answer”!
That is the call—for this man—to radical discipleship!

And the man goes away sad – here is where we learn that he is rich – he had many possessions.
He is not able to rise above the possessions of his life to answer the call to put his whole trust in Jesus.
The living and effective Word has cut the man—and we have to think that this was an otherwise good man—and caused him sadness--it was his choice.

And now it amazes the disciples, because Jesus tells them, “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."
That had to upset them, because they, too, were pious Jews, and they knew the promises of Deuteronomy (Dt 28:11-12).
They knew that God said: If you follow me and keep my commandments, I’ll open up this rich treasure house of the heavens for you, and bless all your undertakings. So that every nation will look on you with awe.

When Jesus is reminded, “Lord, we have given up everything to follow you,"
Jesus again turns the tables, in fact he turns everything the we think is conventional thinking completely upside down.
He tells the disciples that if they have given up all of these things they are going to get them back in abundance. In this life, he said.
Oh, and one more thing—all of this with persecutions!

Well, talk about throwing a wrench into the works!
It is certainly a speed bump on the road to salvation!

There is the cross, in the midst of all of the other benefits. Always the cross. Jesus acknowledges that we all have to suffer—another hard lesson.
We certainly reference it enough, though I don’t know if we realize it or not.
How many times do we say, “he or she has his cross to carry.”

Everybody has to suffer.
It is a part of our human condition, because while we are beloved sons and daughters of God, we are also sons and daughters in the flesh of Adam and Eve.
Is it something we should shrink from? No.

Certainly, today’s mode of normal living dictates that we can’t very well give up everything—not in our current state of life.
And not everybody is called to give up everything.
We need certain things, food, clothing, housing, transportation, education.
The call that Jesus gives to the man in the Gospel should echo in our hearts to give up all the things that keep us from seeing and following Jesus effectively.

We cannot follow him when our minds are fixed on the “stuff” of daily life – when we are more concerned with our cars and boats and houses, our computers; how big is the flat-screen TV in our living room, the IPods, our standing with the boss at work.
There is hardly room for Jesus on that list.

We cannot let these things obscure our eyes and our ears. We cannot let them give us a false sense of security.
We cannot let them cover over our hearts.

We all need to see clearly the Jesus who calls us with relentless love to follow him—to put him at the center.

Is it difficult? Yes, more so than getting a camel to pass through the eye of a needle!
Every day we pray the Our Father, we say, “Thy will be done.” And then many of us go about doing our will ahead of God’s will.

Stay focused, stay clear, and keep your eyes on Jesus. That is the message of the Gospel.
Don’t allow yourselves to be insulated from the from the relentless call of God who, Looking at us, loves us, too!

The word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword.

Will that sharp sword injure you while you are concerned with the stuff of life?
Or will you allow it to penetrate you with that searing truth and love that God longs to give you to heal you and to transform you and to raise you up to eternal life with Him?

Consider the sadness of the rich man – my friends, it is your choice!