We hear today of a rich person very attracted by the message of Jesus but something in him couldn’t let go of his wealth. Whatever about the call to him to give everything away, all of us still today are asked by Jesus to consider what our wealth is for, and how to deal with it? Wealth in individuals and in nations can lead to great happiness and prosperity, so let’s be grateful for what we have, and for the people who have made our wealth possible. And then we wonder how best contribute to others through our wealth.
Pope Francis often speaks of wealth: ‘Wealth ensures nothing. Indeed, once we think we are rich, we can become so self-satisfied that we leave no room for God’s word, for the love of our brothers and sisters, or for the enjoyment of the most important things in life’ (Gaudete Et Exsultate, 2018, par 68). The rich man knew something like this, because he went away ‘sad’.
Recessions have brought us often to some insights about the place of wealth and its trappings in our lives. The church is also challenged to live its poverty rather than just talk about it. Many in our family and among our friends came on hard times in the last few years and the generosity of others, like parents, family and friends, was remarkable. The question for us today is – how generous am I with what I have, and how can I improve the lives of others with what I have.
In one way or another, we all ask the question the rich young man asks: what must we do to inherit eternal life? The man in question probably thought he was doing a good job of living well and following the commandments. Did he ask to look for a public affirmation and a boost in reputation that he was really a decent, upstanding chap, or because he sensed something was still not quite right? Today, we know that we should rely on God to provide for all of our needs and use our gifts to respond to others’ needs, but in the reality of living in our day-to-day life we are encouraged to be self-reliant and self-indulgent. In the Old Testament, riches were viewed as a sign of God’s favour (c.f. Deuteronomy 28:1-14); this is a view held by some Christian groups (particularly in the US) today. However, Jesus challenges this view, as it can lead to a false sense of security and a perversion of a person’s priorities. The promise of the reward of the Kingdom of God for those who had left their previous lives and riches would have been very comforting for early Christians, suffering horrendous persecution under the Roman Emperor Nero and others.
Gospel Mark 10:17-30 Give everything you own to the poor, and follow me
Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, ‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’ And he said to him, ‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.
Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them ‘how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were more astonished than ever. ‘In that case’ they said to one another ‘who can be saved?’ Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he said ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’ Peter took this up. ‘What about us?’ he asked him. ‘We have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.’
Lord Jesus, help me to share, as best I can with my many obligations, what I have.