28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark, in his entire Gospel, never explicitly says that Jesus loved Peter, James, John, or any disciple – or others for that matter. But Mark tells us, in today’s gospel passage, that Jesus loved the rich man. The man sought the kingdom of God and he did what God had commanded. Perhaps, this is what endeared him to Jesus.
It is also worth-mentioning that this is the only instance in Mark’s Gospel when Jesus invited someone to follow him and the person could not do it – the reason being: “He went away sad, for he had many possessions.”
We cannot truly join the ranks of those who follow Jesus until we have squarely confronted ourselves about the role of material wealth in our lives. We have to come clean about the power of money and material possessions have over us. Money can become an organizing principle of our life. It can become a “human-made god” that competes with the one true God, that people, wittingly or unwittingly, are worshipping, serving, and depending on.
Someone said, “Money has no material power or force except as people attribute power to it.” Money as an object is not the master of anyone except by one’s consent to make money his or her master, his or her god. Money would be absolutely nothing, materially speaking, without human consent. (Jacques Ellul) The bad news in today’s gospel story is this: There are occasions when the desire for money –for having it, holding it, keeping it becomes more important than anything else. Or is that the good news?
The gospel calls our values and priorities into question. As he tried to do for the rich man in today’ gospel story, Jesus wants to free us from the tyranny of money. The Lord summons us to cut all ties to the things of the world which enslave and tangle. He invites us to become free: free from the desire to possess things, free from determining our value by the size of our wealth, free from the entanglements of material possessions, free from the grip of materialism and consumerism.
“How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God!” Wealth, in this passage, signifies many things: proud self-sufficiency, over reliance on one’s own power, the supremacy of the law of profit over that of morality, the utter inequality in the use of the earth’s goods, the search for convenience, pleasure, and vainglory.
Are we possessed and dominated by wealth? The Lord is challenging us to give up our many attachments. Let us pray that we may not allow wealth to hinder us from entering the Kingdom of God. With God’s help, let us reclaim our freedom… freedom from anxiety about our wealth… freedom to follow Jesus freely and closely.
Today’s gospel lesson proclaims good news and bad news. The good news is no one who clings to one’s riches can get into the kingdom of God. Or is that bad news? The bad news is anything is possible with God: God can purge us of all our possessiveness. Or is that bad news?
Each of us must decide. One thing is for sure: If we want to follow Jesus, we better brace ourselves. He calls us to serve a God who loves us, a God who will keep disturbing us until we finally relinquish our grip on material wealth and possessions Once we say yes to God, once we follow Jesus, we can expect holy disruptions in our lives until the day when God alone shall purge and possess our hearts.
Let us end with a prayer: Lord Jesus, You constantly remind us that one’s life does not consist of possessions… that what truly matters is the inheritance than only God can give: eternal life. Help us and enable us to distinguish our need from our greed – so that our material wealth will not prevent us from entering the Kingdom of God. Strengthen our resolve and willingness to let go for the sake of the Kingdom, to give and share generously to the poor, and to follow You, Lord Jesus, more freely and more faithfully. Amen.