Sunday, May 22, 2016

SELL EVERYTHING?


Homily for May 23rd, 2016: Mark 10:17-27.

          “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God,” Jesus says. Note the effect of these words on Jesus’ disciples. Mark tells us that “they were amazed at [Jesus’] words.” Why? Because their Jewish faith told them that wealth was a sign of God’s blessing. Jesus had just contradicted a fundamental teaching of their faith. No wonder they were amazed – and no doubt totally confused as well.

          Their confusion is clear from the disciples’ question: “Then who can be saved?” By responding, “For men it is impossible,” Jesus is saying that while we cannot be saved without effort on our part, human effort alone is insufficient. Salvation is always God’s gift. That is the meaning of the second part of Jesus’ answer: “All things are possible for God.”

          The whole second part of our gospel reading is Jesus’ commentary on the man who has asked him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus’ response to the man’s question, “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor,” is personal to this particular man. Because of the man’s earnestness, he recommends renunciation. To most of us Jesus recommends not total renunciation but detachment – not clinging to what one has but living with open hands and an open heart: being a Giver rather than a Taker.

          Which are you? If you are a Taker, I’ll promise you one thing. You will always be frustrated: because you’ll never get enough. It is only the givers who have joy in their hearts – the joy which, like salvation, is the gift of God, the giver of every good thing.

          This still leaves us with the question: If salvation if God’s gift, what is the point of all our sacrifices and good deeds? The answer is simple: they are our grateful response to everything God gives us. And if a long life has taught me anything, it is this. Grateful people are happy people.