To read the texts click on the texts: Wis 7:7-11; Heb 4:12-13; Mk10:17-30
more than ever before, it is being brought to our attention what greed and a
desire for more can do, not only to us, as humans, but also, to our
environment. Global warming, changing weather conditions, the melting of
glaciers, intermittent rain, lack of water and other basic necessities in so
many parts of the world, the growing number of those who go to bed hungry every
day, are only some of the consequences of the greed of a few. Even today, when
some have more than they will ever need, others are struggling to get even the
little that they require to live. The excess consumption of some deprives
others of the resources they need just to survive. The disparity between the rich
and the poor is growing larger with each passing day. Our world seems to be
closing in on itself. The readings of today address these issues.
the Gospel text of today, Jesus offers a challenge, not only to the rich man,
but to each of us as well.
be sure, the rich man has obeyed all the commandments. He has kept the law. It
is precisely because he has kept the law to such perfection that Jesus issues
the challenge. Surely, a man who has been so true and so faithful will rise to
the greater challenge. Surely, a man who has been so observant of what the law
requires him to do will dare to go further. Surely, a man so close to God will
walk that extra mile. Sadly, however, this does not turn out to be the case.
The rich man cannot make the leap of faith. He cannot give up what is required
to be given up by him. It is not so much that he possesses riches but rather,
that riches possess him. It is not that he owns things but rather, that things
own him. Because things own him and riches possess him, they will not let him
be free to make a decision. Things obstruct his hearing, and his vision. Things
will not let him see, or hear, or act.
problem is at the root of what is happening in our world today. There are so
many of us who are controlled by things. So many of us have let our riches
control us and have power over us. We have given in to selfishness and
self-centeredness to such an extent that we are not able to see beyond our
noses. Each one of us, in his or her own way, is responsible for setting
himself or herself on a destructive path.
is one prime reason why the possessions of the rich man control him, and why we
have set ourselves on a similar path of self destruction. The reason is
because, while he and some of us possess external riches, he, and we, do not
possess the most valuable of all riches: wisdom. Solomon realized this well
which is why, in the first reading of today, he prayed to God, not for external
riches, but for one gift and one gift alone: the gift of wisdom. He did not
selfishly ask for riches, or honour, or glory. He did not selfishly ask for
things to satisfy only momentarily. He did not selfishly ask to satisfy his own
desires. Solomon understood, unlike the rich man, and unlike us, that wisdom is
superior to all riches. It is superior to power, superior to precious stones,
superior to even health, beauty, and light. This wisdom made Solomon realize
his own finitude and so, his identity with the rest of the human race. It also
led him to a desire not to close in on himself but to keep hoping, searching,
and reaching out. It led him to pray and to call out to God, not in
desperation, but with confidence and courage.
he does because he knows that God’s word is, as the letter to the Hebrews
points out, a two edged sword. It is this word which knows the thoughts and
innermost desires of each one of us. It is this word that will call each of us
to account for our every word and action. It is this word that questions and
challenges us. It is this word to which we must answer.
answer that we give to this word, which is alive and active, will depend on our
response to the challenge which Jesus poses to us through the Gospel of today:
“sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure
in heaven; then come, follow me.” What are we being called to in such a
summons? How do we respond?
people respond in different ways. Francis of Assisi and Ignatius of Loyola
interpreted these words literally and so, divested themselves of every form of
external riches and also the internal riches of the ego and the self.
Environmentalists respond by making people aware of the dangers of the degradation
of the environment and the ill effects of such acts on the whole of humanity.
Social workers respond by making the poor aware of their rights and giving them
the courage to fight for them. Even if most of us are not called to such
radical sacrifice, what we are called to is a reflection on our life style. Has
the consumer culture of the world taken such hold of us that we, too, like the
rich man, are possessed by things? Have we converted our wants into our needs?
Is our excess consumption responsible, in some way, for the fact that others
have less? Will we dare to give up, and to follow?