28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Psalm 90:12-13, 14-15, 16-17 (14)
October 10, 2021
A man asked Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
This is a question we all probably want to know the answer for, at least I assume since you come for Mass that you want to get into Heaven. I find it much more appealing than the alternative myself.
Jesus responds by speaking of the commandments. We know the commandments, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, honor your father and your mother. We know the commandments but do we keep them?
Do we surrender ourselves to our Father’s Will? This is the type of spiritual poverty we should seek. The is a negative spiritual poverty when we are led astray by evil. Good spiritual poverty involves surrendering ourselves to the Lord, admitting we need the Holy Spirit to lead us. The commandments are one way the Lord leads us.
There are those who feel God’s Word, including some of the commandments is outdated. It is only outdated to those who think they know better.
The truth is that “the word of God is living and effective.” We ask God’s help in keeping his Word. In doing so, we show our good spiritual poverty.
The man responds to Jesus by saying, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” If he has observed all these, one might wonder why he asks Jesus what he needs to do to “inherit eternal life.”
Could it be because he realizes something is still missing?
Jesus provides the answer to that, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven.”
What the man is lacking is material poverty. Just I described a good and bad spiritual poverty, the same is true of material poverty. The “bad” material poverty are those who lack the resources they need. Good material poverty is when we set aside greed and coveting, realizing we don’t need so much.
Embracing this simplicity of life can actually help us to be free to help those who have material poverty “forced” upon them. In helping them, we show our respect for their needs. We help them to live with the dignity they deserve.
The question is do we embrace simplicity of life; do we accept good material poverty?
The man struggled with this.
When Jesus told him to go sell what he had, “his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”
Does that mean the man did not “inherit eternal life?” Biblical scholars tend to say that the man would not sell what he had. Whether he did or not, I do not know. However, I offer the possibility that he did. Perhaps he went away sad that he had to give up his possessions but willing to do it.
Why must he sell what he has?
It’s not that these things are necessarily bad. Many things are neither good nor bad. It is our attachment to them that becomes the problem. If they become too important to us, they dictate our choices. We make choices based on our love of the things rather than our love for God. As Paul writes it is “the love of money that is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10).
We need to let go of our attachments. This is what Jesus is telling us when He says, “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.”
A camel is a big animal. The “eye of a needle” has an obvious sewing reference. It was also used to describe a small entryway into the cities when they were walled up. This entrance was designed for a single person to enter without baggage.
What “baggage” (i.e. attachments, things) do you try to bring with you as you journey through life? Do you desire only what you need or do you desire more?
The writer of the Book of Wisdom speaks of their prayers and their pleading, “I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.”
What do you pray and plead for? A nice car? Lots of money? What is your treasure? For this writer, it was not earthly riches. It was the “spirit of wisdom.” They saw earthly riches as nothing in comparison to the wisdom of God. Gold is nothing more than sand compared to what God offers.
We ask God to fill us with his love. God wants to fill us with his love.
The question is do we make room for God’s love or have we filled our hearts with love for our attachments. What do we need to let go of to make room for God?
It might be riches. It might be pride. It might be anger towards others. It might be some form of addiction. It might seem impossible for us to overcome our attachments or addictions. The reality is we can’t do it on our own.
Here, we need to pay attention to Jesus’ words, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.”
Have you given up everything? Are you ready to? Ask and God will help you.