What Jesus Asks Is Worth All
Reflections and Actions for the Twenty – Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B
Wisdom 7:7 – 11; Hebrews 4:12 – 13; Mark 10:17 – 30
From Living God's Word Year B by Father David M. Knight
The story of the rich young man is one of the most misunderstood passages in poor" as a call to take the vow of poverty in a monastery or religious order. Jesus does not require all Christians to give up their property, they argued, so this must be just a counsel, an exhortation to do the "better thing" for those who want to be "perfect."
This established a two-track Christianity: the perfection track ("way of the counsels") for first – string Christians who committed themselves by the religious vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience to doing everything Jesus urged; and the salvation track ("'way of the commandments") for the laity, who just aimed at doing what God commanded. Parish ministry was geared to helping the laity get to heaven, not to get really holy or intimate with God. Vatican II changed all this by declaring that the "perfection of love" is the aim of every authentic Christian way of life. To take our baptismal vows seriously is to be embarked on a way of perfection, because there is no two – track Christianity in the Gospels, but only the way of total gift which Jesus taught to all.
The truth is that Jesus' response here is neither a command nor a counsel, but an example. It is one thing a person might do to enter into the kingdom of God; one thing among many that can let us experience and know that we have entered into conscious, deep relationship with Jesus Christ. To give everything away to the poor is a dramatic gesture of passionate love. Jesus teaches that this gesture or one like it – is that "one more thing you must do" if you want to experience your religion for what it truly is: a relationship of passionate love for Jesus Christ.
And this is what Christianity is. Our religion is not just a religion of rules or routine. We are not good Christians, or Catholics who truly know what the Church is all about, just because we keep all the commandments and go to Mass every Sunday. How many young people who can say, "I have kept all the commandments since my childhood" have dropped out of the Church and stopped being active Christians because, as they put it, "It just did not mean anything to me!" Their religion did not mean anything to them because it was not deep, experienced relationship with Jesus Christ. And it was not the Catholic religion either; it was a religion of rules and routine without a soul. It was Christianity without Christ – or without deeply experienced personal relationship with Christ.
To "sell everything” is not an exhortation addressed only to those who want to be special Christians bucking for canonization. Jesus presents this as the entrance exam for becoming his disciples; for beginning to follow him! The way to understand what Jesus Christ is all about is to make some dramatic gesture, right from the start, of giving up in our hearts everything that is in competition with him: money, home, family, marriage, even life itself. (For other examples see Luke 9:23 – 27; 12:49 – 53; 14:26; Matthew 19:10 – 12, 29; 16:24 – 28).
Does this seem extreme? Isn't this exactly what every married couple does? Anyone who marries gives up every other man or woman on earth for the sake of one spouse. The married leave home and parents. They put all their possessions at the service of each other and of their children. They would give up all they possess and even their lives, if necessary, to help each other. And this passionate, total gift of self to each other is expressed in the passionate self – giving of sexual intercourse. All love is gift. Total love is total gift. And the love we learn from Jesus Christ is passionate, total gift. To accept Jesus on these terms is the only way to understand him.
Reflecting on This Week's Gospels
Pray daily: Lord, you love me without bounds and you showed it. Teach me how to show you that my love for you is without bounds.
Monday: Luke 11:29 – 32. "The queen of the South will rise...with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here." What sacrifices do you make to hear the wisdom of Jesus? What chances are offered in your parish?
Tuesday: Luke 11:37 – 41. "Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness." What specific ways are offered to you in the parish to help you purify, clarify, lift higher the attitudes and values in your heart?
Wednesday: Luke 11:42 – 46. "[W]oe to you Pharisees! For you tithe... and neglect justice and the love for God." What do you see as the basic obligations of your religion? What do you see as "good but extra"? In which list do you put participating in Scripture study, discussion groups, retreats? What, concretely, are you doing to grow in understanding God's heart?
Thursday: Luke 11:47 – 54. "Therefore, also the Wisdom of God said, 'I will send them prophets...some of whom they will kill."' What efforts have been made in your parish to teach you more about the Gospel? Have you voted to kill these initiatives by just not participating? How have you supported them?
Friday: Luke 12:1 – 7. "Do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more." Do you worry more about losing your physical fitness, than you do about just not growing in knowledge and love of God? Is a smoke – free environment more important to you than a bad – value – free environment?
Saturday: Luke 12:8 – 12. "Everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God." What visible actions in your life say, not just that you believe in Jesus, but that you love him above everything else life offers?
Living This Week's Gospels
As Christian: List what is offered in the parish to help you experience God (daily Mass, Reconciliation, study groups). Then list the reasons you do not use them more. Compare the values on both sides.
As Disciple: List the religious duties you perform faithfully. Underline those which are changing your attitudes and values.
As Prophet: Write "from the ends of the earth" on a card (see Monday) and do one thing each day to embody
As Priest: At daily Mass or at home offer yourself with Jesus lifted up on the cross for others. Then give life through love.
As King: Drop your pastor a note affirming one thing that says the parish is aiming at more than routine religion – or suggesting one thing he could do that would say this.