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What About Wealth?

Submitted by on Sunday, 11 October 2009No Comment


  • Reading I: Wisdom 7:7-11
  • Reading II: Hebrews 4:12-13
  • Gospel Reading: Mark 10:17-30


The Question about Eternal Life

In the gospel story about the rich man, we are shown that the question about eternal life is synonimous to the idea of entering the kingdom of God and salvation ("Who then can be saved?"). 

Jesus Declaration About the Rich

Important in this story about the rich man is the lesson that Jesus’ draws for his disciples to think about.  "How difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God;  it would be easier for the camel to enter the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God".  The declaration serves two purposes:  it summarizes the first part of the story about the man who realized that he was not prepared to gain eternal life because of his attachment to his wealth, and it also makes the disciples ask the question about salvation.

It is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God — to gain eternal life and to be saved — because they have no room in their hearts for Jesus; wealth has taken all the space.  Remember the Beatitudes?  The happiness that God reserves for those He loves are for the poor in spirit — those who have nothing else but their faith in God.  For the rich, Jesus pronounces "Woes".  The gospels are consistent in recording sayings about the rich and how their wealth would be a snare to them unless they let go of these.  "Go sell all you have and give to the poor; that way, you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come follow me."  Earlier, Jesus had said to his disciples:  "What profit can a man have if he does gain the whole world but lose his soul?  Anyone who loses his soul for my sake will find it.  Anyone who tries to save his soul will lose it."  The rich man although a pious man — he has been observing the commandments from childhood — was weighed and found lacking.  "You lack one thing", the Lord said.  He did not say:  "Accept me in your heart as your personal savior and believe".  He said:  "Go sell all you have, give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come and follow me.".  "Go … sell … give … then come, follow me."

How About Us?

The liturgy invites us to see whether we can truly say with Peter:  "We have left everything and followed you."  Can we say with Peter:  "I have left everything to follow the Lord"?  You see, if not now, there will be a time when the Lord will confront us with our wealth, our career, the things we cherish and he will tell us:  "Go, … sell …, give to the poor … and come follow me".

A woman told me this story once:  she writes books and teaches in a Catholic university in Ireland.  The first time she read the words of Jesus to the young man, she said to herself:  "I will never be able to practise this".  Many years after she said this to herself, she went home after a day’s work and wanted to prepare her dinner only to find out that she had no matches, no salt and no bread.  And then she realized that she had given the salt, the matches and the bread to a poor newly married couple who lived near her place that morning.  It was then that she realized, without being aware of it, that little by little all throughout those years, she has been giving up many of the things she thought she cannot live with, as she tried to live the Christian faith.

"Go sell give to the poor…"  For this woman, it was through hindsight that she realized that Peter’s words may as well been her own:  "How about us, we have left everything to follow you…"

The Look of Jesus

When we look at the rather difficult requirements that Jesus puts before us, we cannot but repeat what the disciples said:  "Who then can be saved?"  Jesus looked at them then and then said:  "For man it is impossible; for God everything is possible."  Jesus’ look is important here, because it is a look of grace.  In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus gives this look to Peter after this one had disowned him twice.  If you read the gospel of Mark, you’d find out that when Jesus called in his first disciples, he "looked" at them first.  "He saw … and said to them:  Come, follow me…"  That look is a look of election; in the OT, it was a look that was reserved for David.  In the present story, after the man said that he has lived by the commandments since childhood, Jesus "looked at him and loved him."  This was a moment of grace; a moment of election.  When the man had moved away, Jesus looked at his disciples and told them the lesson about how difficult it would be for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.  After the disciples had reacted, Jesus looked at them again and said "For man it is impossible; for God everything is possible."  Jesus’ look, is reassuring in that for his disciples and those wishing to be so, the "impossibility" of discipleship is replaced by divine possibility through grace.  Augustine tells us that the Lord does not command anything that is beyond us because he also gives us the power to do what he commands.

Command Us What You Will…

"Command us what you will; give us what you command".  This is the way Augustine prays for the grace of carrying out in his life the commands of the Lord.  We also pray this today especially because we know that in our weakness, anything — not only love for money or riches — can impede us from truly embracing the Lord and making him our only concern.

Wisdom 7:7-11
View in: NAB NIV KJV Vulg LXX
7Wherefore I wished, and understanding was given me: and I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came upon me:
8And I preferred her before kingdoms and thrones, and esteemed riches nothing in comparison of her.
9Neither did I compare unto her any precious stone: for all gold in comparison of her, is as a little sand, and silver in respect to her shall be counted as clay.
10I loved her above health and beauty, and chose to have her instead of light: for her light cannot be put out.
11Now all good things came to me together with her, and innumerable riches through her hands,
Hebrews 4:12-13
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
12For the word of God is living and effectual, and more piercing than any two edged sword; and reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit, of the joints also and the marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
13Neither is there any creature invisible in his sight: but all things are naked and open to his eyes, to whom our speech is.
Mark 10:17-30
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
17And when he was gone forth into the way, a certain man running up and kneeling before him, asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may receive life everlasting?
18And Jesus said to him, Why callest thou me good? None is good but one, that is God.
19Thou knowest the commandments: Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, bear not false witness, do no fraud, honour thy father and mother.
20But he answering, said to him: Master, all these things I have observed from my youth.
21And Jesus looking on him, loved him, and said to him: One thing is wanting unto thee: go, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.
22Who being struck sad at that saying, went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
23And Jesus looking round about, saith to his disciples: How hardly shall they that have riches, enter into the kingdom of God!
24And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus again answering, saith to them: Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches, to enter into the kingdom of God?
25It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
26Who wondered the more, saying among themselves: Who then can be saved?
27And Jesus looking on them, saith: With men it is impossible; but not with God: for all things are possible with God.
28And Peter began to say unto him: Behold, we have left all things, and have followed thee.
29Jesus answering, said: Amen I say to you, there is no man who hath left house or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or lands, for my sake and for the gospel,
30Who shall not receive an hundred times as much, now in this time; houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions: and in the world to come life everlasting.

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