14 October 201828 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
28 Ordinary Time
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle B - Mark 10:17-30

A monk was lost in meditation at a river bank. A novice put before him two exquisite jewels as a sign of his devotion. The monk opened his eyes and picked up a jewel. It rolled out of his hand into the river. The novice jumped in immediately. But he could not find it. He asked the monk to point out the spot where it fell. The monk picked up the second jewel and tossed it into the river. He pointed and said, "Right there." The monk then added, "Do not allow yourself to be owned by objects. Only then will you be free."

Contrary to what many may think, Jesus invited but one person to give all his possessions away. That individual is the rich man of today's Gospel. The delicious irony is that this solitary command was turned down flat by him.

Did the Christ never ask anyone again because He had become gun shy at this put-down? Or could it be that we do not understand His views on possessions and poverty? The latter I submit is the case.

The Teacher stayed often in the large comfortable home of Martha and Mary outside Jerusalem. He never asked them to sell the mansion and share the dollars with Jerusalem's poor.

He never asked the apostles to sell their costly fishing boats. We know He sailed in them often for business and pleasure. The record shows He enjoyed parties, took delight in five star meals, and drank vintage wine. He obviously enjoyed the good life whenever it came His way.

Why then did Jesus make this extraordinary demand of the wealthy man of today's Gospel? Well, the fellow had told Him of the sins He did not commit - adultery, murder, etc. The Master invites him to speak not of the evil he had avoided but of the good he had done. His problem was spiritual poverty. He suffered from "sleeping sickness of the soul." Christ's teaching is not a system whereby one avoids doing wrong. It is a way of life that impels us to do good and then, after a time, better.

This was the difference between the Gospel rich man and Martha and Mary. They were not merely avoiding sin. They were anxious to do good. They were giving away 10% of their wealth to the synagogue and charity. They were volunteering to help the poor. They held a welcoming hand to people on the run such as Jesus and His apostles. They were not owned by their possessions. They used them for others.

The reaction of the Nazarene to the rich man's departure was disappointment. He saw in him what He sees in all of us - the potential of leaving our old lives and becoming new people. Like the novice with the jewels, the wealthy gentleman had an inordinate love for his possessions. He was more fond of his own comforts than he was of others' needs.

The Christ is not condemning the comfortable and affluent but the way they use their resources. Once there lived a wealthy fellow nicknamed Fishhooks. He put his hands in his pockets so seldom one might think fishhooks were waiting there to attack him. And so his nickname. He did no evil, but he did little good either. He was stingy. One could hardly call him a Christian according to Jesus' yardstick. There is I fear much of the Fishhooks in each of us.

This piece by Author Unknown is what Jesus is condemning. "I was hungry and you formed a humanities club to discuss my hunger. I was imprisoned and you crept off to pray for my release. I was naked and in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance. I was sick and you knelt and thanked God for your health. I was homeless and you preached to me of the love of God. I was lonely and you left me alone to pray for me. You seem so holy, so close to God. But I am still very hungry and lonely and cold."

Run this test by yourself. When the collection comes around for the poor, do you give the same amount you gave three years ago? Do you give your money reluctantly? Do you think that while ten dollars is of no value in the supermarket, it is an extraordinary sum in church? If you say yes to any of these questions, this Gospel may have your name on it.

Remember the aphorism. We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.

The monk reminds you that if your Christian life is a drag, worldly weights may be slowing you down.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
28 Ordinary Time
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time: The Wisdom of God

It was really horrible. 12 year old Tommy was bawled out by his little league coach. He was mocked in front of his teammates. He was told that if he ever refused to obey the coach again, he would be off the team. Tommy did his best to keep from crying, but his eyes welled up with tears. His offence? Tommy was a pitcher, and the best pitcher and all around player on the team. When the opposing pitcher came up, the coach went out to the mound to remind Tommy that one of his teammates was hit by a pitch the last inning. It was most probably just a pitch that got away, and it just grazed the leg of the hit batsman, but the coach wanted his pitcher to send a message. Tommy didn't think that was right; so he didn't do it. The coach went ballistic. "This is the way baseball is," the coach fumed, "this is the way of the world. You better learn from this or you'll be a patsy your entire life." Sad story, unfortunately not made up. Tommy asked me if he was disrespecting his elders. I told him he was respecting God.

Two different mothers called the school in the second month of the school year. Unless there was a change in the first grade classroom, they were pulling their little girls out of the Catholic school. And they were right. What was going on in that first grade? Some of the other mothers had told their daughters that they needed to assert themselves over the other girls. Well, perhaps these mothers had an original intention of raising daughters who would not be taken advantage of by anyone, but they turned their daughters into bullies, and then supported them when the other mothers complained, becoming bullies themselves. The principal tried to reason with the offending mothers. She got nowhere. In fact, she was told, "the world can be divided into the bullies and the bullied. My daughter will not be counted among the bullied." Within the year, the school had to ask the offending families to leave. Sad story. True story.

Might makes right. Be the bully or be bullied. Money is power. All these attitudes are the way of the world.

They are not the way of God. They are not the way of the followers of Jesus Christ.

God was very pleased with young King Solomon. The period of mourning the great King David was over. It was now time for Solomon to reign. His father had accumulated whatever Solomon would need to build a Temple to Yahweh in Jerusalem. Solomon decided to make this the focus of his reign. Then God appeared to Solomon in a dream. You can read about it in 1 Kings 3:3-9. "I am delighted with you," God said. And then He asked, "What is it that you would like, Solomon?"

And Solomon replied, "Give your servant an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil."

To this God said, "Because you have asked for wisdom, and not for a long life or riches or the lives of your enemies, I will give you a wise and discerning mind like no one has ever had before, as well as that which you did not ask for, riches and honor all your life."

Solomon sought the Wisdom of God, not the way of the world.

But the rich, young man of the Gospel was not so wise. He was a good man. Jesus loved him because he was sincere when he asked what he needed to do to attain eternal life. The man wasn't trying to trick Jesus into saying something that would be used against him. Jesus called him to become a special disciple, perhaps in time a great apostle. But the man could not leave the way of the world. His money dominated him, and, perhaps, destroyed him.

Might makes right. Be the bully or be bullied. Money is power. This is the sinfulness of the world that Christ came to destroy. He calls us to follow him. He calls us to choose the Wisdom of God over the way of the world.

And many are making this choice. Catholics and other Christians are right now sitting in the cells of horrible prisons throughout the world. Some have lost everything they owned and are expecting to lose their lives. Many young girls have been kidnapped by the practitioners of radical Islam and have been treated in the most abominable ways because they are Christians. Here in the United States many others have refused to sacrifice their Christianity for the sake of advancing in business. They are living far more frugally than some of their workmates. Yet all, those standing for truth in jail, the kidnapped martyrs, and those standing for truth in the rat race of business are in actuality living as rich people. They possess all that matters in life, the Presence of Jesus Christ. They chose and are continually choosing the Wisdom of God.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are some who are living miserably in mansions, surrounded by every type of unfathomably expensive items, paintings, sculptures, with the best vehicles in their garages and a huge ship waiting for them in some Caribbean port, but they are not happy because none of the possessions they spent their lives acquiring can give them happiness.

"Our hearts are made for you, O Lord, and shall not rest until they rest in you." St. Augustine in his Confessions.

The readings today really hit us to the core of our lives. They ask us to consider what are the guiding principals of our lives. Scripture does that to us, doesn't it? The second reading from Hebrews 4 says that the Word of God is a two edged sword, a sword that is very sharp and very strong. The Word of God cuts through the bone and marrow. It cuts into us and uncovers the thoughts, reflections and desires of our hearts. It cuts through the lies we tell ourselves. It cuts through the masks we wear. The Word of God cuts through to the basic motivation of our lives. And it demands that we ask ourselves today, "Do I follow the way of the world or do I want the Wisdom of God to direct my life?"

Come Holy Spirit! Come Wisdom of God! Give us the courage to embrace the way of the Lord. Give us the courage to live our faith.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
28 Ordinary Time
Prudence of Jesus vs. Prudence of the Flesh
(October 14, 2018)

Bottom line: Jesus calls us not to prudence of the flesh, but true prudence, to risk all for him and his kingdom.

In our first reading King Solomon says, "I prayed and prudence was given me." Prudence has many dimensions. It implies shrewdness, good judgment, common sense, caution and discernment. We need prudence to manage finances, moral behavior and decision making. But as we shall see, we are called to a deeper prudence - not prudence of the flesh but the prudence of Jesus.

To understand the prudence of Jesus let's first look at everyday prudence. In Proverbs (which like the Book of Wisdom is attributed to Solomon), the author writes, "In a multitude of words, transgression is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is prudent."* We live in a time that has lost prudence of speech. I remember back in the 90's when the scandals broke about President Clinton. Lurid revelations filled the news and comedians had a field day. I admit I joined the fun but an older, wiser priest said to me, "It's sad we don't have more discreet ways of dealing with these matters." Bingo! We have lost discretion and that lack of discretion brings down our culture and has a negative affect on our children. Like Solomon we need to pray for prudence.

Jesus wants us to speak with discretion, but as we see in today's Gospel, he wants a much deeper prudence. Jesus urges us to make this calculation: If you give up everything for me, I promise you a hundred fold return. I've experienced that myself. I'm hardly the most prudent person, but I made good bet some fifty five years ago. I bet on Jesus; I began to dedicate my life to him.

Last week I mentioned Jesus' call to celibacy. For sure I miss having my own home and children. God, however, has given me an abundance of children, both in Peru and here. I've never owned a home (or even rented one) yet I have many homes. The life of celibacy has not been easy and I have been far from perfect. Still Jesus keeps his promises. It's like purchasing a lottery ticket with a guaranteed win.

So prudence does not mean timidity. Just the opposite. It means to risk all for Jesus. Not to do the minimum to get to heaven and then get all you can while you can. St. Francis warned his followers: "We must not be wise and prudent according to the flesh." As St. Thomas Aquinas says, "prudence of the flesh signifies properly the prudence of a man who looks upon carnal goods as the last end of his life. Now it is evident that this is a sin, because it involves a disorder in man with respect to his last end, which does not consist in the goods of the body...prudence of the flesh is a sin."

Jesus calls us not to prudence of the flesh, but to true prudence, to risk all for him and his kingdom. For sure, as St. Augustine says, we must be "careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery." (quoted in the Catechism #1809) True prudence means first to keep the commandments and then to hear Jesus invitation, "Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."

Today we want to follow the wise example of Solomon, "I prayed and prudence was given me." Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
28 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
28 Ordinary Time
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The story of the Rich Young Man appears more or less identically in all three of the Synoptic Gospels. The question the young man poses is an interesting one. He says, 'What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He thinks that we can get to heaven by doing things. If this were true it would only be a question of finding out what things we must do and then once these have been completed we will be let into heaven.

Actually, we know that entrance into the Kingdom of God is something that God freely chooses to bestow on whomever he wishes and nothing we do or don’t do can gain us admittance. We cannot get to heaven by pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Admission to eternal life is something that can only be granted as a result of the mercy of God; it is something that is completely unmerited by us.

This young man is completely sincere and he wants to see Jesus urgently, we see this from the fact that he runs up to Jesus. He is also very respectful and kneels before the Lord and addresses him as 'good master’ or in other translations as 'good teacher’ and then he asks his question about eternal life.

We should observe here that belief in eternal life was a relatively new concept for the Jews. In the Old Testament we see practically no references to an afterlife, there are just a few towards the end. And even at the time of Jesus there were heated arguments going on about this innovative new doctrine. We know, for example, that the Pharisees believed in the possibility of a resurrection but the Sadducees definitely didn’t. So, we realise that this concept of eternal life was a kind of hot-topic at the time. The young man, however, believes in it and wants to achieve it and so runs up to ask the most authoritative teacher around precisely how to get there.

We might be slightly confused by Jesus’ first words to the young man, 'Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.’ However, we should be careful not to interpret these words as Jesus denying either his goodness or his divinity.

Jesus then quotes the commandments and the young man assures him that he has kept them since his youth. Jesus then tells him the one thing he lacks and that is radical discipleship. Then comes something unique, Jesus looks steadily at him and loved him. No where else is it stated in Mark’s Gospel that Jesus loved a particular person.

He then tells the young man to sell his possessions and join the band of Apostles thus embracing a life of utter dependence on God. By giving his wealth to the poor he will ensure that he is building up riches in heaven. However, the young man is crestfallen because he has many possessions. The word used here implies that he had a lot of land and presumably also a fine house and he cannot bear the thought of giving these things up and so goes away sad.

Jesus then comes out with the memorable saying, '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.’ There have been many attempts to explain this phrase; some have suggested that there was a small gate in the wall of Jerusalem called the Eye of the Needle which a camel could not pass though. I tend to think that these sorts of explanations are worthless and actually undermine what Jesus really meant.

According to me he chooses this metaphor precisely because it is grotesque, precisely because it describes a complete impossibility. He is telling us that we have to completely detach ourselves from material things in order to enter the Kingdom. As my Grandfather used to say, 'There’s nae pockets in shrouds.’ We cannot take our possessions with us when we die, nor any of our other worldly attachments. As we go through our lives we find ourselves acquiring more and more material possessions but when we approach death we discover that we have to gradually detach ourselves from all of them. The final phase of our life is about letting go.

Wealth is morally neutral; it is neither good or bad, but it is what we do with our wealth that brings it into the moral sphere. In the story, this young man with estates and houses is not criticised for having wealth and so we can assume that by giving employment to others and fulfilling his civic duties he was using his wealth well. However, what Jesus is pointing out is that the man’s wealth was holding him back from radically embracing the Gospel.

As always with the Gospel it is our attitude that matters. It is not a question of having wealth or not having wealth, rather it is your attitude towards it. Some of the most avaricious people I know have been very poor. They were poor, but they were in love with money.

The disciples are nonplussed at this interaction between Jesus and the Rich Young Man. They don’t know what to make of it and so they ask about themselves. Peter says, 'What about us? We have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus reassures them and says that they will certainly be rewarded a hundredfold. Those who follow Jesus in a radical way will surely inherit eternal life. But we have to understand that it is only God who can grant this gift. God can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

The upshot of all this is that we need to embrace radical discipleship. We may be following the way of life set out in the Gospels but we need to do more that that. We need to being doing something more radical. We need to be going the extra mile with our faith, doing something beyond the call of mere duty.

In our lives we need to find something specific which requires us to go beyond the usual expectations. We know of people who assist in hospitals or prisons or with the homeless. They have chosen a particular form of service that is out of the ordinary, something that is beyond normal expectations. We know of people serve in soup kitchens or food banks or in charity shops. Others teach English to refugees or assist with the care of young children. They give their time freely and generously in the service of the less fortunate, and we can see from their lives that their discipleship has moved from the normal to something more radical.

This Gospel text is reassuring but challenging. Sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom is an essential requirement of those who wish to truly follow Christ. The Christian follows a difficult path in life but it is a journey with a destination. And the destination is nothing other than the Kingdom of Heaven.
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