The one who is consumed by material things, never seems to have enough — Mark 10:17 ff — 11 October 2015

Mk 10:22 “Sell all you have: and come, follow me.”

The one who is always treating lightly or leaving the material, seems always to have more than they need.  The one who is consumed by material things, never seems to have enough.

It is no wonder that this account struck St. Francis as one of the three Gospel passages that founded his order.  This account so much like his own story.  A wealthy, urbane person comes to Jesus, wanting divine reassurance that he is acceptable to God because he has done his best.

Despite the decency of this wealthy individual, Jesus loving him tells him that he has to leave everything.  He is unable to cope with this challenge to total commitment and so leaves.   Those noticing this event, including the disciples, are used to the idea that success is a sign of God’s blessing.  The wealthy individual and the disciples are all completely amazed. This story makes our hearts uneasy.

I think of Isabel Allende’s brilliant book, “Portrait in Sepia.”   In the first place, the leading character Paulina has many successful business and investment projects.  Shrewdly, coolly and very ably, Pauline assessed each project  for its profit potential.  Its like the TV show “Shark Tank”.

Secondly, there is Paulina’s overwhelming and total commitment to her granddaughter named Aurora.  Aurora was born out of wedlock, and Paulina adopted her upon the demise of her parents.  The rest of the story arises from the engagement between Paulina and Aurora.

There is a difference in the level of commitment between the first and the second, isn’t there?   Paulina and her grandchild Aurora needed to give and receive absolutely everything, each to the other, without any negotiation or reserve.

There is a difference between a breakfast of bacon and eggs.  Bacon involves total commitment by a pig.  Eggs do not involve total commitment by a chicken.  Jesus does not call for a subscription (as if to a newspaper, TV cable, or software app); he does not call for an investment.  Jesus loves us without any limit, loves us to death: and he calls to us for our love and total commitment.

Back to our passage!  Despite the surprise of the disciples, not only did Jesus repeat this saying, but also he went on to say that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.  That is to say, it is only possible through opening our hearts to God’s action. The point of this passage is not that only an ascetic can enter the kingdom.  Rather, the point is that all that we can do on our own is never going to help us relate with God. It is kind of obviously true, really! — for all of us, rich or poor.

In response to Peter’s defense that they have left everything, Jesus says this:  When you follow me, you are always leaving the things of the world.  What we begin in our baptism must be the case every day.  Every day, we lay aside self-sufficiency.  As Alcoholics Anonymous affirms, every day we live in God’s possibilities.  

The one who clutches to material things never seems to have enough.  Also, the one who is chasing very second of time never seems to have enough time.   Yet regarding time, in our Psalm (Ps 90:12) we read: “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.”  The one who regards lightly the things of this world always has more than they need, although with persecutions.

As the community of faith we say that “All things come of thee O Lord, and of thine own we have given thee.”  When this imbues every aspect of our management of time and money, we can easily achieve the social justice that God seeks in Amos 5:6-7 and 10-15.

In this time when we ask you to make your financial commitment to the life of the body of Christ, your community of faith, what are your feelings regarding material goods? It is a big question isn’t it?  Jesus does not want a subscription.  He pours out everything for you and me, and he calls for us to pray for and to grow in our love and commitment to him and his people.

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