Readings: Wis 7:7-11; Heb 4:12-13; Mk 10:17-30
The best way to live, the wisdom of the gospel, detachment from wealth and simplicity of life are the key words that help to capture the central message of this Sunday. In October 2014, Pope Francis suspended a bishop in Europe over the cost of his home renovation, highlighting the need for church leaders to live a simple life. The bishop had spent some $40 million to improve his private residence, including installing a $20,000 bathtub. Such a display was not the best way to live and he would not obviously smell like the sheep. I cite this example because in the gospel Jesus shows a rich man the best way to live by giving up his wealth. The rich man saw the price tag of following Jesus which meant going all the way to the Cross where one gives up everything. He had kept God’s commands since his youth, and Jesus looked at him with love. An ideal person, you would think, to receive the gospel. Yet Jesus wanted to show him something about himself of which he was totally unaware. He was no longer free because his wealth had come to possess him rather than he owning it. Jesus invited him to free himself, but the cost seemed just too high. In other words following Jesus is more than just keeping the Commandments; it means embracing the sacrifice it entails.
There is nothing wrong with money as such, or even with being wealthy. Some of the world’s greatest people who did most for the welfare of humanity, have been wealthy people. But at a deeper level, at the end of the day I own absolutely nothing. All is a generous gift from God. My hold on things is provisional, temporary. A sudden stroke or a heart attack, and I am separated forever from all my worldly possessions. How hard it is for people who are weighed down by possessions to enter the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom belongs to the childlike who have nothing to worry about. It belongs to the poor in spirit; not so much economically poor, but detached from riches in their inmost spirit.
Then there are some who give up everything to follow Jesus. He doesn’t call everybody to do this. He didn’t ask Lazarus or his sisters to leave home and follow him. But being a follower of Jesus does mean having to leave something. It involves a change of priorities, a new way of valuing things, an interest in the riches that are stored up in heaven, “where moth cannot consume, nor rust corrode.” Those who leave everything to follow Jesus are among the most blessed of people, dedicated souls like Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa of Calcutta and many other unsung heroes. Such people are blessed with the riches of God’s grace, and bring much blessing to the lives of others. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) Jesus shows the rich man the best way to be transformed so that he can let go and find eternal life. 2) Jesus invites us to free ourselves from attachment to material possessions so that they do not possess us. 3) Possessions in themselves are not an obstacle to following Jesus. The bottom line is whether we are willing to let go a mediocre way of life by choosing the best way to live.
©2015 John S. Mbinda