The Gospel for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary time, this coming Sunday, reminds us of how constrained we can be by wealth and possessions. Even the desire to do good can be thwarted by the desire to hold on to what we have.
Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, ‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’ And he said to him, ‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.
Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them ‘how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 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.’ They were more astonished than ever. ‘In that case’ they said to one another ‘who can be saved?’ Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he said ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’
Peter took this up. ‘What about us?’ he asked him. ‘We have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.’
This is Mark’s Gospel, the gospel that is not afraid to present us with the existential challenge of discipleship, not afraid to leave us struggling with uncomfortable questions and maybe even more uncomfortable truths.
Yet there is much that the Gospel does not tell us. Take the rich young man who Jesus looked at so steadily and who he loved: did he ever come back? did he find freedom in the Lord? We don’t know, but that we care suggests we wonder about what hope there is for us.
Like Peter – who has left everything, but is still one of a group who not so long ago were arguing about position and power. And Mark never told us they learnt the lesson Jesus taught…
Obedience, faithfulness, simplicity and an openness to conversion, again and again and again (did I mention again?) – these are the virtues a disciple needs to strive for.
Mark knows, for Peter taught him!
- Pray for the gift of simplicity and trust for yourself and those you love.
Image of Francis of Assisi, who embraced poverty in his following of Jesus. Painted on the board used to carry his body to its burial. (In collection of the Basilica of Sta Maria degli Angeli, Assisi. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.