October 11, 2015 — Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
“For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” Perhaps somewhere deep inside of us we know that this is true, but because we are human, and because we tend to have a feeling that we are capable of doing many things, the humble acceptance of God’s power and control can be difficult. Our readings on this 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time look at our spiritual lives and at our desire for independence, but they also reveal our need and reliance on the Lord.
Our First Reading comes to us once again from the Book of Wisdom. You may recall this Book is attributed to Solomon as it is presented in the first person as if he was speaking; however, scholars have established that it was written about 100 years before the birth of Christ, so it represents Solomon’s thoughts as he was considered one of the wisest rulers in the history of Israel. In this particular passage Solomon opens by saying, “I prayed, and prudence was given to me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.” Everything should begin with prayer, as the writer indicates. True wisdom can only be achieved through prayer, and through seeking the guidance of God. Note that the word “spirit” is used to describe how wisdom comes to Solomon. The Holy Spirit is an important aspect of a prayerful life. The conclusion expressed in this extract is that wisdom is worth more than riches and the trappings of life; in fact, wisdom is more precious than gold.
The Word of God is extolled in the Second Reading from Hebrews. That term “Word of God” sometimes confuses us. Holy Scripture is the Word of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way: “In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, ‘but as what it really is, the word of God. In the sacred books (the Bible), the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet His children, and talks with them’.” (#104) The word of God is to reach into our hearts; however, that is not possible if we do not make the effort to hear the Word, and to understand its meaning for us. Just as the Book of Wisdom presented this spirit reaching within us the letter to the Hebrews reminds us of our need to hear the Word and to respond to it. We must be open to the Word when it is presented to us.
Our Gospel reading from St. Mark presents to us a situation that may make us uncomfortable. Jesus is confronted by a young man of means who asks what he must do to “inherit eternal life.” The Lord’s reply is straightforward presenting again the Commandments given us by God. Nevertheless, when the young man responds that he has followed the commandments faithfully, Jesus adds another proviso: “Go sell what you have, and give to the poor…then come follow me.” The young man walks away dejectedly, for he obviously had much.
One thing we must understand in this reading is that the affluent young man thought eternal life was something you earned, something you deserved if you lived as you should. Jesus wants more than obedience; He wants us to relate to Him and to one another. All of our readings address the thought that God can see deeply into our hearts. The Lord knows what we are thinking and feeling. That is what is happening here; Jesus sees into the young man’s heart, and perceives that his wealth is a stumbling block to salvation. Jesus is not saying everyone must give everything away, but He is saying we must be prepared to follow Him, no matter how problematic that might be.
Jesus reminds His followers that as demanding as following Him and leading a Christian life may be, “All things are possible for God.” Our task is to pray, to seek what the Holy Spirit is leading us to do, to search for guidance through the Word of God, and then to commit ourselves not only to living as we should as good stewards, but also to incorporate our Savior and His Word into our very hearts.