10th October, 2021

American dollars in a silver case

Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Mark, 10: 17-30

Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life? Today’s Gospel inspired me very much to ask each of us a very simple question and to start my Sunday reflection just like that. If someone gave you the chance to see Jesus face to face, and ask Him just one question that is absolutely most important to you, what would you ask Him? What would you ask Jesus if you met Him, like the rich man in today’s Gospel who – as we heard – run up and knelt in front of Him, and then said what he was going to say? Would our question to Jesus be the same, or at least similar to the one we heard at the beginning: Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life? I think a lot of people we know would start their conversation with Jesus in a completely different way. Perhaps many of them would ask Him: Master, what must I do to enjoy my present life even more, please tell me what must I do to enjoy a happier life here and now? What must I do to make my present life more peaceful, completely free from any problems, stresses and worries? Undoubtedly most of us who come to church and try to build a good relationship with God through our daily prayers, we all ask Him different questions. What would you ask Jesus today, and what would your reaction be if you met him face to face?

As we have heard, Jesus answered this man’s question in a very simple way, pointing out and reminding him of 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 I think most of us – like this man – could reply Jesus by saying very proudly the same words: Master I have kept all these commandments from my childhood. And then surely Jesus would look at us with love – as He looked at him – and then He would tell us something very personal starting exactly in the same way: There is one or maybe two or maybe more things you lack …

Perhaps we also don’t have aby problem with the commandments and we keep them all as best we can. We’ve never killed anyone, we’ve never committed adultery, we’ve never stolen anything, we’ve never brought any false testimony against anyone. Perhaps we honour – and even more that – we love our parents as much as we can. What else can we do? – we ask Jesus. And another question – today we have quite a few of them – what does it mean: Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor? What does it mean in practice, and how can we apply these very challenging words of Jesus? Perhaps some of us would say: How it is possible to live without a home, car, clothes, bank account, computer and many other things that are necessary to live and work in the modern world? I think if Jesus had said to me personally: Go and sell everything you have and give the money to the poor, even though I have no wealth and a lot of money in my account, but I would be in great trouble, and what’s more, the parish would suffer a lot, because I wouldn’t be able to do my ministry if I had sold my car for example. I certainly wouldn’t be able to go to the hospital to visit the sick, moreover, I wouldn’t be able to go to Desborough, Rothwell or Burton Latimer to say Mass, and I wouldn’t be able to do many other things that are an important part of my priestly ministry in the parish. So, what does it mean: Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor? Does this mean that Jesus doesn’t like rich people? Does this mean that He condemns wealth, money and all those people who live peacefully in prosperity and have never experienced any financial problems? Of course not! Jesus never condemns anyone, and moreover, He doesn’t condemn prosperity, wealth and money at all – but today He wants to tell us something very important to open our eyes much wider. I am convinced that Jesus knew this rich man very well and knew that wealth, money and perhaps greed were the greatest obstacles for him to inherit eternal life. Even if – as we heard – he kept all the commandments, he was not a happy man at all, and he was desperately looking for some change in his life.

Jesus wants us to ask ourselves one very important question today: What is the biggest obstacle for us on our way to heaven – or in other words – what is the biggest obstacle for me and for you to inherit eternal life? Maybe instead of saying to us: Go and sell everything you own, Jesus would rather say: Indeed, there is one thing you lack to inherit eternal life: be more respectful; or be more patient; or be more generous; don’t be selfish; be more open to the community in which you live and try to do something more for others; be more pious; pray; try to be a better priest, father, mother, friend; don’t abuse alcohol, nicotine and take care of your health… You don’t have to give your money or wealth but sometimes your friendly smile is enough, and I am sure there are many other things that we can improve on, we can change or completely get rid of in our daily lives, and many things that are essential and important for us to inherit eternal life. Let us ask Jesus this simple question as often as possible in our daily prayers starting today and now: Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life? May Jesus answer us in a moment of silence…

Fr Gregory