A Reflection on the Readings for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 10, 2021
Reading I: Wisdom 7:7-11
Responsorial Psalm: 90:12-13, 14-15, 16-17
Reading II: Hebrews 4:12-13
Gospel: Mark 10:17-30
In our first reading from the Book of Wisdom, we see the value of the virtues of Prudence and Wisdom, which should far outweigh the value of earthly treasures. We are not to understand that earthly treasures are evil or sinful in and of themselves but are to recognize that they don’t really belong to us individually. All good gifts are given to us by God and are to be used by those possessing them for the common good. If we pray for and assimilate the virtues of Prudence and Wisdom, we will come to understand that earthly treasures are gifts from God and are meant by God to test us to see if we will make proper use of those gifts. We are, of course, grateful to God for his many gifts, and it is good for us to accumulate enough treasure to provide for ourselves and our families, but we only need so much, and our excess should be put to use on behalf of those less fortunate. So, the “golden thread” that we will see binding our readings together this week is not that wealth is evil, but that detachment from wealth is a virtue and a means of our entering the Kingdom of God. One who is detached from earthly wealth and possesses the virtues of Prudence and Wisdom is one who places God and the Kingdom above all other desires. Some are called to renounce all earthly possessions and make vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and put their trust totally in God. Others, who live in the secular world, are called to use earthly treasure as God requires, to provide for themselves and their families and for those less fortunate. But regardless of one’s state of life, clerical or secular, we are all called to the virtues of Prudence and Wisdom and to the virtues of Chastity and Obedience to the will of God.
In our Responsorial from Psalm 90, we ask God to: “Prosper the work of our hands,” “that we may gain wisdom of heart.” We ask that the prosperous work of our hands may lead us to the recognition that all good gifts come from God, and that recognition should lead us to the virtues of Prudence and Wisdom. Others, seeing our prosperity Wisdom and Prudence will, hopefully, be converted from love of worldly treasures.
Our second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that even the thoughts of our hearts are not concealed from God and “we must render an account” to God for the manner in which we assimilate the virtues of Prudence and Wisdom and make proper use of God’s generous gifts.
Our gospel passage is particularly interesting because the young man who desired to inherit eternal life could represent many of us. He was a good man who desired eternal life and led a good life. And he recognized the goodness of Jesus who looked at the young man with love, because he had kept the commandments throughout his life. Jesus looks at all of us with love if we truly try to keep to his teaching and abide by the commandments. But Jesus saw something else in this young man that was still necessary. We don’t know about the young man’s background, but I would like to think that he was in a position where he could renounce his wealth without detriment to his family. Jesus would not ask him to give away his wealth and put his family in poverty. I would like to think that this young man was being called to follow Jesus as an apostle. We don’t know the outcome of this story, but maybe, upon further reflection, the young man did as Jesus suggested; he gave away his wealth and followed Jesus totally as Peter and the other apostles had done.
But Jesus goes on to say how difficult it is for the wealthy to enter the Kingdom of God because their wealth is their god. It is impossible for that wealthy person to enter the kingdom on his own; but nothing is impossible for God. God may inspire that wealthy person to the virtues of Prudence and Wisdom, as Jesus may have inspired the young man above. God may inspire that person to recognize his possessions as God’s gracious gifts and to inspire him to put them to proper use rather than to hoard them for himself.
This was certainly a volatile time in the first century. Many people were coming to believe in the words of Jesus and began to follow him, but many others did not, and there was much dissension within families and communities. Parents were often pitted against their children, brothers against brothers, sisters against sisters. Many who followed Jesus were separated from their families and ostracized from their communities. Many had to ask: Do I give up everything to follow Jesus? Will I no longer have family or any personal possessions? But Jesus assured the apostles that anyone who is separated from family, home, relatives, etc., because he chooses to follow Jesus will have it all restored many times over because his home and his family will now be the church: “In this present age.” We have a world-wide home in the church and millions of brothers and sisters. It will not be without turmoil because there will be persecutions, but there will be “eternal life in the age to come.”
Author: Ric Cross