14 October. 28th Sunday

1st Reading: Wisdom (7:7-11)

Solomon praises Wisdom as more precious than gold, silver, health, or beauty

I prayed, and understanding was given me;
I called on God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.
I preferred her to sceptres and thrones,
and I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with her.
Neither did I liken to her any priceless gem,
because all gold is but a little sand in her sight,
and silver will be accounted as clay before her.
I loved her more than health and beauty,
and I chose to have her rather than light,
because her radiance never ceases.
All good things came to me along with her,
and in her hands uncounted wealth.

Resp. Psalm (Ps 90)

R.: Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy

Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Return, O Lord! How long?
Have pity on your servants! (R./)

Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,
that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.
Make us glad, for the days when you afflicted us,
for the years when we saw evil. (R./)

Let your work be seen by your servants
and your glory by their children;
and may the gracious care of the Lord our God be ours;
prosper the work of our hands for us!
Prosper the work of our hands! (R./)

2nd Reading: Hebrews (4:12-13)

The word of God is alive and active, a source of true wisdom

Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.

Gospel: Mark (10:17-30 )

The young man declines to follow Jesus, unwilling to part with his wealth.

(OR, shorter version: Mark 10:17-27)

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, 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 shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’”

He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age-houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions-and in the age to come eternal life.”


The spiritual quest

Two young people are prominent in today’s readings: young king Solomon and the rich young man. Both are in search of something “more”, both are looking for meaning, for wisdom. One succeeds and the other is disappointed. What makes the difference?

It may help to think of our own experience of the deeper human longing, the spiritual quest. We are likely to have experienced both success and failure — and each can ask oneself what in me made the difference each time? Moving into the present moment, where am I now in my life? What do I desire deep down? Are there things I need to let go of right now?

(Kieran O’Mahony.  For exegetical comments on today’s Readings, click here).

Owned by our “stuff”

In today’s Gospel we meet a young man of good and noble character, genuinely searching for guidance in life. He has kept God’s commandments since childhood, and was so honest that Jesus looked at him with warm affection. An ideal character, you would think, to receive the gospel and follow Jesus, whatever it might cost. But there was something about that young man that needed to be cured. He was owned by his own wealth, and it had a stronger grip on him than he had on it. Jesus invited him to get free of it, but the cost seemed too just too high. “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

There is nothing wrong with money as such, or even with being wealthy. Some of those who did most for the welfare of humanity, have been wealthy people. But at a deeper level the fact is that I own nothing in any absolute way. My hold on things is provisional, temporary. A sudden stroke, a brain haemorrhage or heart attack, can separated me from all my belongings. “There are no pockets in a shroud.” Apparently there was a narrow entrance at the side of the temple called “the needle’s eye.” It was wide enough for a camel to pass through, but only if the load was removed from the camel’s back. With the panniers of goods the camel normally carried it would be impossible to pass through that gate. How hard it is for people who are weighed down with ownership to enter the Kingdom of God. For it belongs to children and to the poor in spirit … people who are detached from riches in their inmost spirit. For a worthy cause, they can part with their wealth.

Then there are some who give up everything to follow Jesus. He doesn’t call everybody to do this radical poverty. He didn’t ask Lazarus or his sisters to leave home and follow him. But being a follower of Jesus does mean having to leave something. It involves a change of priorities, a new way, valuing things, an interest in the riches that are stored in heaven, “where moth cannot consume, nor rust corrode.” Those who leave everything to follow Jesus are among the most blessed of people, dedicated souls like Padre Pio, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, aid workers in places torn by war and disease, and many other unsung heroes. Such people are blessed with the riches of God’s grace, and bring much blessing to the lives of others.

The monkey-trap

African hunters have a clever way of trapping monkeys. They slice a coconut in two, hollow it out, and in one half of the shell cut a hole just big enough for a monkey’s hand to pass through. Then they place an orange in the other coconut half before fastening together the two halves of the coconut shell. Finally, they secure the coconut to a tree with a rope, retreat into the bush, and wait. Sooner or later, an unsuspecting monkey swings by, smells the delicious orange, and discovers its location inside the coconut. Slipping its hand through the small hole, the monkey grasps the orange, and tries to pull it through the hole. Of course, the orange won’t come out, since it’s too big for the hole. But the persistent monkey continues pulling and pulling to no avail, never realizing the danger it is in. While it struggles with the orange, the hunters approach and capture the monkey in a net over. Looking on, we could see that as long as the monkey keeps its fist wrapped around the orange, it is trapped. The only way to save its life is to let go of the orange and flee.

Seeing the monkey struggling to get the orange while the hunters are closing up on it, an animal-lover would shout to make the creature abandon the stupid orange and run for dear life. This is rather like what Jesus advises the rich young man. He sees him in danger of losing his chance for eternal life on account of his fixation on money. So he advises him to turn his back on wealth and save his life. Why did the choice have to be so stark? Mark say it is because “Jesus looked at him and loved him” (10:21a). The advice of Jesus often seems hard to follow but it is always meant for our own good. It will change our way of thinking if we realise that these are the words of someone who loves us and who knows better than we can do what can lead us to eternal life.

The rich young man is like the monkey tragically clinging to the orange when its very life is in danger. So Jesus suggests another way to him: “Go and sell what you have, and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But the young man finds this teaching a hard pill to swallow since, like many others, he believed his wealth was a sure sign of God’s blessing. Even today the “prosperity gospel” is widespread: the belief that wealth is a sign of God’s approval, and poverty and hardship a sign of God’s disapproval. Therefore when Jesus said how hard it would be for rich people to enter the kingdom of God, his disciples were astonished and asked, ‘Then who can be saved?’” (v. 26). The real gospel challenges the prosperity gospel for God’s love can go hand in hand with material poverty. In fact, voluntary, dedicated poverty can be a way of responding to God’s love. Materialism is the belief that without wealth life is meaningless. The rich young man was a materialist at heart. We can pray today to have more wisdom than the monkey, and avoid materialism in all its forms. For what is the use of to gaining the whole world and lose our life in the process?

What must I do?

Jesus gave his full attention to people who turned up out of the blue, wanting to talk to him. Here we are told how he was setting out on a journey when a man ran up and put the question to him, ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ At this point Jesus was on his way from Galilee to Jerusalem, on the most important journey of his life. The unexpected arrival of this man with his burning question delayed him from setting out on his planned journey, but Jesus gave him his undivided attention. The needs of the present moment were all important to Jesus. What he himself had planned to do took second place to the call that was made on him in the here and now. Jesus teaches us to take seriously the call of the present moment. The person who turned up out of nowhere needed advice and Jesus responded, even though the unexpected interruption cut across his own plans. The call of the present moment can take all kinds of unexpected forms for us, and, yet, it is there that the Lord very often meets us and we meet him.

The man raised an unexpected question, ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus replied with an equally unexpected invitation to this man, ‘Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor — then follow me.’ There is nobody else in Mark’s gospel who receives such a stark call from Jesus. This is what the Lord was asking of this person, here and now. His reaction to this call of Jesus shows how unexpected it was. Whereas he had run up to Jesus, breathless, with his burning question, ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ when he heard Jesus’ answer we are told that ‘his face fell and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.’ His excited coming to Jesus only resulted in him sadly walking away. The call of the present moment was too much for him to hear, and his refusal to hear it brought him sadness of heart, a heaviness of spirit. He was so attached to his possessions that he couldn’t let go of them, even though following Jesus was his particular calling in life. In the words of today’s 2nd Reading, the words Jesus addressed to him were alive and active, cutting into the young man’s core like a two-edged sword.

If we approach the Lord, if we want a personal relationship with him, he will give us our calling too. His particular call to us may not be what the man in the gospel received. However there will be a similarity too. It will always be a call to give ourselves more fully to the Lord’s way, letting go of whatever is holding us back from living according to the values of the gospel that Jesus proclaimed and lived. His call to us will be to do whatever we need to do in order to walk in his way more wholeheartedly. There will be moments when we hear that call very strongly — perhaps when we are least expecting it. If the particular call the Lord makes on us seems daunting, we take comfort in his promise that ‘everything is possible for God.’ What we can’t do on our own, we can do with God’s help. The grace at work within us gives us power to live as God wants us to live.

Machtnamh: Gafa ag maoin an tsaoil

Ar an gcéad amharc, deallraíonn sé gur duine fíor-uasal, an fear óg a luaitear sa soiscéal inniu, é measúil ar thóir suaimhneas anama agus é dírithe ar an saol síoraí. Chloigh sé le aitheanta Dé ón a óige, agus bhí sé chomh dáiríre san gur leag Íosa súil cinealta air. Sár-dhuine, a déarfá, chun a chuid a dhéanamh ar son an soiscéal agus Íosa a leanúint. Ach fós bhí eolas ag ár dTiarna faoin bhfear óg sin go raibh gá lena leigheas. Bhí greim docht daingean ag a chuid maoine air , greim níos láidre ag an t’airgead air ná mar a raibh aige ar an airgead. D’iarr Íosa air a bheith saor leo, ach ba ro árd an costas. “Níl sa bhfocal “Saoirse” ach bheith réidh le maoin ionas na bhfuil faic fágtha.”


(Saint Callistus, pope and martyr)

While cremation was widely practiced by the pagans, the early Christians like the Jews opted firmly for burial (inhumation), which is why they needed spacious burial-places outside the city of Rome. Callixtus also called Callistus (died 223) was the deacon to whom Pope Zephyrinus entrusted the burial catacombs along the Appian Way. He succeeded Zephyrinus as bishop of Rome in 218 and was martyred in 223 under emperor Alexander Severus. The largest Roman catacomb complex is named for him, San Callisto.

One Comment

  1. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    Oscar Romero.

    One thing you lack.
    Keeping the commandments is good. But it is possible to keep all the rules, and still not be a loving person; not living the eternal life.
    Riches are not bad, but if I see in them the security, the fullness of life, if I am self-centred with those riches when others have not the means of dignified living, I have not begun to live. Wisdom looks deeper.
    Andrew Fastow, jailed for his part in the collapse of energy company Enron in 2001, said: “In 2000, CFO Magazine named me CFO [Chief Financial Officer] of the Year. This is my actual trophy. This is my prison ID card. Every inmate in the federal system is supposed to carry these at all times. Here’s the interesting thing – I got both of these for doing the same deals. How do you become CFO of the year and commit the biggest fraud in American corporate history by doing the same deals? Something doesn’t make sense… Every single deal I did at Enron was approved by the accountants at Enron, the outside auditors, the internal attorneys, the outside attorneys and the board of directors. How can you get approval from all of those people and still commit fraud? You can follow all the rules and still commit fraud at the same time.”
    Those in a position to do so can use the tax regulations to pervert the purpose of those regulations. It is possible to abide by the religious rules and be far from God.
    Oscar Romero, whose canonisation takes place in Rome today, learned from the reality of the terrible poverty and injustice suffered by the people when he was bishop of the rural diocese of Santiago de María from 1974.
    In his first year the National Guard massacred farmworkers in the village of Tres Calles. Romero protested to the commander. The officer dismissed the killings off as a trivial accounting with local malefactors. He pointed a finger at Romero and said ‘Cassocks are not bulletproof.’ ”
    Romero was vilified by those in power, by the media, and by some of his fellow bishops, for taking a strong public stance for the poor and oppressed.
    Trócaire supported his El Salvador Human Rights Commission. On 23 March 1980, Romero made a public appeal: “I would like to make a special appeal to army men and in particular to the bases of the National Guard, the police, and the garrisons. They are brothers from our own people. They are killing their own peasant brothers. And before an order to kill, given by a man, the law of God that says ‘You shall not kill’ must prevail. No soldier is forced to obey an order against the law of God. No one has to follow an immoral law.”
    The following day he was shot dead while celebrating Mass at a hospital. His wisdom went beyond keeping the commandments.
    In 2009, the state of El Salvador acknowledged its responsibility in the killing. In 2011, El Salvador initiated at the United Nations a resolution to establish 24 March, the day of Romero’s death, as “The International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims.”
    It is remarkable that we have “International Day for the Right to the Truth.” The Report of the Secretary-General at the UN General Assembly of 2 September 2011 is remarkable for the wealth of tribute to Oscar Romero in this regard.
    Today, in our world of such great want and inequality and injustice, we have great need for recognition of the right to the truth. This could bring us far beyond “I have kept all these since my youth.” Speaking the truth can take great courage and persistence despite being ignored, and can involve great personal cost. The report this week of the Disclosures Tribunal tells of the 12 years of vilification of one person for drawing attention to possible injustice.
    Jesus promised both blessing and persecution to those who put their following of him first of all. It may become more difficult in the coming years to stand up for a Christian position on various matters. Those in the medical services in Ireland who hold that procured abortion is unacceptable may face such decisions before long. Politicians face a similar challenge.
    “I loved Wisdom more than health and beauty, and I chose to have her rather than light, because her radiance never ceases. All good things came to me along with her, and in her hands uncounted wealth.”
    “Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
    For God, all things are possible.
    See http://www.un.org/en/events/righttotruthday/index.shtml.
    A free download of a book (151 pages) of a selection of Romero’s writings and homilies is available from https://www.plough.com/en/topics/faith/discipleship/scandal-of-redemption.

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