Anticipating the Twenty-eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time, we share a Franciscan Gospel reflection and questions written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM. They are edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflection for October 14 2018. Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Please include this information when printing.
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.'” He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, 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 one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”
Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.
The gospel text from last Sunday ended with Jesus telling the disciples that only those who accept the Kingdom of God like a little child will enter it. After that, Jesus embraced the children about him. (Mark 10:15-16) The gospel text for this week follows directly after that one.
The man who approaches Jesus with his questions is described as having many possessions, and he would have been considered wealthy by people of the day. The people held two contradictory assumptions about those who were wealthy. The first is that those with wealth had gotten it by taking advantage of others. The attitude found in the scriptures that people had toward tax collectors would be an example. In contrast to this outlook is the sense that wealth could also be understood as a sign of being favored by God. Job’s status in the beginning of the book of Job would represent that basis. But we also might think of the scribes, who notice the contributions of the wealthy but are blind to the poor widows’ contributions as they enter the temple.
Mark recounts the young man running up to Jesus with his question about eternal life. Normally, public compliments, i.e. “good teacher,” are given as a setup to challenge one’s character or reputation. But this young man does not seem to be setting Jesus up for an embarrassing question with his compliment. He comes instead with a question that is important to him, and he seeks out Jesus for his wisdom. He may be wealthy, but he is also a person who is sincere in his effort to be counted among God’s faithful. His sincerity is also manifested in the fact that he takes Jesus’ response to his question seriously, and goes away sad because he has discovered that he is not as willing to do what is required as he had anticipated.
Jesus’ dialogue with the disciples indicates his awareness that his teaching is difficult for even his most faithful disciples to hear. His teaching goes against the presumption of the day that wealth is a sign of blessing. And it goes against the presumption that one earns eternal life by what one does, whether that is keeping the law and traditions, or leaving the security of home and family to become a disciple of a holy one like Jesus. The problem with wealth is that it can hinder one from living in a way that develops a real sense of trusting the goodness of God. Wealth is not the issue. The young man was seeking to take possession of eternal life in the same manner that he had inherited his wealth.
Peter’s response to Jesus’ teaching could be expected from those who had chosen to become his disciples. This kind of radical dependency is not natural, especially for men of the day. Jesus seeks to reassure them that their efforts are recognized and blessed. But he also seems to indicate that eternal life, sharing in the very life of God, is not something anyone earns or is entitled to receive. It is always God’s gift, and it must always be received as a gift.
1. What is your attitude toward wealth?
2. When I consider my experience of my interaction with people of wealth I…
3. When I think of my own possessions…
4. When I hear this man asking, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” I want to respond…
5. When you think of Jesus looking at the man with love…
6. How do you think God is looking upon you?
7. When the text stated that the man’s face fell and he went away sad, I felt…
8. Can you talk to God now about your own concerns, hopes, or fears regarding eternal life, or about anything else that arose while praying with this gospel?