Lectionary Sermon (Gospel) for October 10, 2021

Mark 10:17-31 Whirlwind Speculation

Our passage begins with Jesus getting ready to go on a journey. It is time to go on the road again. We are told that as Jesus get ready to leave, he is approached by a man who kneels at Jesus’s feet. The man asks Jesus the ultimate question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

However, question, why does he use the word inherit?

“How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”

At first this can seem like a very benign teaching. A parable about camels and needles. About the evil rich. As usual, the Scripture can be so subtle. Who has wealth? What defines wealth? Why can it be so spiritually harmful?

First, back to the young man. What is his quest? Affirmation. The young man needed affirmation from someone who had a name. Jesus definitely has a name.

The Scripture reveals this young man was wealthy. In the pop theology of Jesus’s day, being rich was a sign of being blessed by God. So this very confident, young scholar of practical theology who had many wants Jesus to give him affirmation.

Jesus, looking at him, loved him  (Mk. 10:21 NRS). Grasp this, God loves this young man. Jesus loves this young man. God is open to risk. Jesus reaches out.

As for affirmation, Jesus does and he doesn’t. Jesus affirms his desire to try and follow the law, a law he only superficially understands, but points out his one weakness, that is his dependance upon his wealth. His wealth is his faith.

The young man walked away

This passage is a challenge to one of the difficulties every human being must face. What is our wealth, and do we depend on it more than upon God?

This should be of great concern to those of us who seek to follow the teachings of our Lord. The following warning is worth contemplation:

The word of God does not mature in those who are smothered by the cares, the riches and the pleasures of life (Lk 8:14). This is true both of individuals and of society. A community that centers its life on pleasure-seeking becomes pragmatic rather than principled. Its commitments to honesty in speech, to justice in work and wages and to sacrifice for the good of others are all slowly debilitated. It is not accidental that permissive sexual morality is accompanied by a rising crime rates.[1]

I believe there are more than enough studies, data banks, and research that would support the quote just given.

So, will Jesus bring such a confrontation to us today through the presence of the Holy Spirit? How does the Holy Spirit guide our wealth?

Are there legitimate questions we should ask ourselves like: Has my wealth been dedicated in this world to sustain self and to invest in treasure that is not of this world? Do I care about negative effects wealth can have? If I have invested my wealth, are its profits gained in a way that is helpful or harmful?

Now before I go further, I must state that I believe the most important thing that God seeks to reveal in this select passage is not one having to do with how much wealth we have or don’t have. I believe it has everything to do with the only mindset to successfully following Jesus.

The disciples argue over Jesus words. They had bought into the health and wealth theology of their day. God is the one who makes people wealthy. Jesus just destroyed the foundational perk the rich were supposed to enjoy. Who then can be saved!

Jesus simply replies that it is not possible for humans to save themselves. Salvation comes from God.

Peter will not let it rest. He begins to tell Jesus of how poor he and the others are now that they are following him, as if being poor and making sacrifices for such an amazing opportunity made them entitled.

I believe Peter gives us a good example of the mistakes which come from reactive theology and is a perfect example that; Fifth Rule. In time of desolation never to make a change; but to be firm and constant in the resolutions and determination in which one was the day preceding such desolation, or in the determination in which he was in the preceding consolation. Wisdom from Ignatius of Loyola.

Do not react, respond to God even if God says wait.

Jesus tolerates Peter. Jesus responds with a vision of recompense, restorations, and reward. And yes, Peter, even eternal life. I wonder how the disciples felt when they heard Jesus say these things. Were they awed? Were they comforted? How do you believe they responded?

The story could stop there but it does not. Jesus has now shown us how he responds to those who seek him. He is never too busy. Jesus calls on us to think about how we view and use wealth. Jesus dispels the myth of the blessing of the rich. Jesus also made it clear that the only hope for this rich is the same as that for the poor, a dependance upon God’s mercy. And yes, we find out there is a reason to save up treasure in heaven and no matter our situation now, we have promises awaiting.

All this is wonderful. Then Jesus says, “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” (Mk. 10:31 NRS)

Somehow I believe living in the power of the Good News now in the Kingdom of God is the only way we can fulfill those words of our Lord.

[1] Dubay, Fr. Thomas. Authenticity . Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.