28th Sunday Ordinary Time B October 15, 2006

Homily — 28th Sunday OT B October 15, 2006

For he had great possessions (painting by G F Watts, 1894)

A sower went out to sow His seed . . . . and some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it.

We see in this week’s Gospel an unnamed man who ran up to Jesus and knelt down before Him.

What do we know about this man? St. Matthew in his Gospel tells us that he’s a young man. A young man, running, not walking, to Jesus; Running, not being dragged by his parents, eager to be in Jesus’ presence.

And then, when he arrives before Jesus, the young man kneels before Jesus, in the front pew as it were, for everyone to see. Despite peer pressure, and at the risk of being labeled a religious fanatic, the young man publically and proudly displays his faith in Jesus.

So far, what we’ve seen of this man is pretty impressive. But it gets better than that — not only is the young man fervent, pious, faith-filled, and courageous, he’s also morally upright. Teacher, all of these (commandments you mention) I have kept from my youth, he tells Jesus.

And Jesus doesn’t say to him “you’re lying” or “not really”. The young man had kept those commandments, and kept them according to Jesus’ high standards. Which meant that even amidst all the many temptations which every young person faces in life, this young man remained gentle, peaceable, pure and chaste in body and mind, honest, just, and lovingly obedient towards his parents and teachers.

No wonder why Jesus loved him. What wasn’t there to love about this young man?

But what’s telling about this young man is what he initially says to Jesus: Good teacher, what must I do to inherit everlasting life? As good and faith filled as this young man is, something is missing from his life. His conscience troubles him, he’s not at peace within himself.

And he comes before Jesus today saying: “Lord, why am I not satisfied with my life? I’ve followed all the commandments, kept clear of sin, said my prayers and did my religious duties, but I still feel troubled. Haven’t I done everything right?”

And so Jesus, the Word of God, who (as the second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews states) can penetrate deep into the soul, who is able to discern….the hidden thoughts of the heart, looks on the man with love. Jesus, to whom no creature is concealed from but everything is naked and exposed to (His) eyes sees inside the young man what he himself can’t see: “You are lacking in one thing. One thing is making you unhappy, unsatisfied, and that is your attachment to riches. Repent of your greed, give your surplus to the poor, and then you’ll know what true happiness is.”

And the tragic, tragic thing is that this fine young man, who had faith, who was honest and pure and peaceful and obedient to his parents and teachers, went away (from Christ) sad, for he had many possessions.

Many possessions. My brothers and sisters, if we’re not careful, the many things we possess may end up possessing us as they did this young man.

And even the greatest exorcist ever, Jesus Christ, who cast out of Mary Magdalen the seven devils that possessed her, who cast out of the man at Gerasene the thousands of demons that possessed him, who delivered countless other possessed people from what possessed them, could not deliver this young man from his many possessions, because at the end of the day, the young man didn’t want to give them up.

Jesus tells us that the lure of riches are the thorns that choked the healthy plant in the parable of the seed and the sower. And we see in this Gospel how the lure of riches are beginning to choke this fine young man. Hopefully this experience was a wake up call for him to start being less materialistic.

It’s important that we don’t get Jesus’ message wrong. How much material things we have isn’t the problem, it’s how attached we are to material things. As St. Paul tells us, Love of money is the root of all evil, not necessarily being blessed with material wealth.

But it is true that the more materially wealthy we are, the more on guard we have to be about breaking the First Commandment (like the young man did, notice how Jesus didn’t mention that one to him) and making riches the real god we worship instead of the One True God.

Now, Jesus doesn’t call all of us to sell everything and take a vow of poverty (Although some young (and old) men and women are called to a religious vocation, a very noble calling). But Jesus does call all Baptized Christians, and even more so all Confirmed Catholics, to live what’s called “simplicity of life” or “the spirit of poverty according to one’s state in life”.

Practically speaking, “simplicity of life” means in all things curbing our appetites for material things. We might be tempted to buy the most luxurious car or home or ipod, but instead, out of love for Jesus, we should buy a more simpler one of these things and give the excess we would have spent to the poor or to the missions.

This isn’t easy at all when we can afford the luxury model, as Jesus says. But with God’s grace all things are possible.

Through the grace of this Eucharist, may we truly say with St. Peter: We have given up everything to follow you Jesus. We have detached ourselves from material things. We have deemed riches nothing in comparison with Your Eternal Wisdom. All gold is sand compared to you (cf the first reading of today’s Mass).

And may Jesus look upon us with love and say in the depths of our souls: “you my child, are lacking in no thing. Your treasure is great in heaven.”

One Response to “28th Sunday Ordinary Time B October 15, 2006”

  1. Forgive me for a long entry. I happened to read the Word Among Us entry
    for this Gospel and found it very inspiring. Hope you do too.

    Deep thanks to Fr. Woolley and comrades for making this blog – it’s fabulous!

    I encourage all you readers to leave a quick cople of lines of comment,
    or thanks to Jesus or people for something that has inspired or helped you.
    No need to be fancy or long – just a few words from your heart!

    Merci — Chris

    Meditation from The Word Among Us on the 10/15/06 Gospel:
    Mark 10:17-30 text at this URL: http://www.usccb.org/nab/101506.shtml

    Why did Jesus make such a big deal out of this rich man’s wealth? Couldn’t he see that this fellow was trying his best to obey the commandments? So why ask for something even more demanding? Because Jesus wanted this man’s heart, not his compliance. Was he willing to part with his most treasured possession so that Jesus could possess him?
    While we may or may not have material riches, we all fear that God may ask us to give up something we hold dear to our hearts: our money, our car, or even a hobby that we enjoy. But what often gets lost in these fears is Jesus’ look of love, the same look he had for the rich man. It is this look that can melt our hearts and convince us that nothing can compare to knowing the Lord.

    The rich man struggled with the thought that he could do everything God asked and still remain in control of his life. Like him, we can be tempted to look at the Christian life as primarily a matter of doing the right things. We forget that God created us to be in a relationship with him. Of course he wants us to do good things for him, but he also wants us to do them with him. He wants to come into our hearts so that our walk of faith becomes a joy, not a burden. He knows that this is the only way we will let go of the tight control we like to have over our lives.

    Jesus doesn’t hate money. Remember, he accepted money from some women who followed him. He didn’t ask them to give it all away to the poor. Jesus is concerned much more about our security and our trust. If it is in him, then he knows we will be pleasing to his Father, no matter how much money we have. So ask yourself today, what is ruling me? Is it Jesus? Or is it something else?

    Dear Jesus, I want to put my first trust in you over everyone and everything. Help my weakness and my unbelief.