October 10, 2021 This homily is posted but not delivered as I will be serving a Maronite Community this weekend.
Wisdom 7, 7-11 + Psalm 90 + Hebrews 4, 12 13 + Mark 10, 17-30
Last week, in a confrontation with the Pharisees, Jesus made it clear that simply keeping the law or observing the rules was no guarantee of a “free ticket” to the Kingdom of God. While he never explicitly said what was more important than the law, he spoke about relationships and finished that episode by blessing some children and confirming that they were the ones who were blessed and had a place in the Kingdom.
This week, Mark’s Gospel gets more specific having Jesus clearly state what must happen over and above keeping the law. The conversation with the rich man reaffirms that keeping the commandments is far from enough when it comes to having a place in the Kingdom. Of all the people living at the time of Jesus, children were the poorest of all. Totally dependent, unable to do any work and provide for themselves, they are the in the greatest need, and they stand in stark contrast to this rich man.
In this encounter we find the only time in all the Gospels when it is recorded that Jesus loved someone. The only time! He looked at that man with love, and the man sadly walked away. He thought he could do something to inherit everlasting life, like write a check, or volunteer at a food pantry. Of course, either one might be good, but it is not what Jesus asks. It is not about doing something. It is about becoming something. Jesus asks that man to become poor which is not just an economic condition. Being poor economically is a comparative condition. The poorest person in this country is still rich to a starving homeless person in other parts of this world.
What Jesus asks is that we become like him, poor. Powerless, defenseless, and totally dependent upon the Father is what Jesus is, and it is what we must become if we have any hope at all of entering the Kingdom he has offered us. No one buys themselves into the Kingdom. There is no score keeping and no points to add up because, the Kingdom of God is gift given to those who know they can do nothing and live in a relationship with God that is like the relationship that Jesus enjoyed. In many ways, Jesus is the poorest of all. He did what he asks of that rich man. He gave up everything to come among us. He left behind all that heaven offers so that we might share through him, with him, and in him all that the Father promises.
Our best hope is that he may look upon us with the same love with which he looked upon that man. Our best hope is that we might surrender all the power that our wealth provides and risk discovering the freedom that belongs to those who are truly poor. We can only be possessed by one thing, the love of God. Those possessed by their possessions are never free, and they are far from being real children of God.