Ordinary 28

Ordinary 28
October 15, 2006

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Wisdom 7: 7-11
Psalm 90
Hebrews 4: 12-13
Mark 10: 17-30

Dear Preachers: What is there about wisdom that the author of the first reading prefers her more than "any priceless gem...all gold...silver...health and comeliness?" Even more than light itself. And why is wisdom personified and referred to as "her" and not "it?"

The speaker is supposed to be Solomon, whose reputation for wisdom is well known. He is not just praying for everyday prudence with which to make good choices. One would also presume his religious tradition had sufficient guidelines for making the right moral and spiritual choices. The author wants something more; something only God can bestow--- hence the prayer. What good can riches be without the blessing of wisdom to direct one's deepest longings and satisfy our appetites for personal completion?

Wisdom is depicted as feminine. The word in the original language is feminine. Another reason the feminine is used may be because the writer longs for more than a series of proverbs and propositions to live by. We are reminded that everything we think is important is going to pass. Knowing this, the writer wants more; wants a companion that will provide true guidance throughout life's twists and turns. The prayer is answered and the gift of a gentle, lifelong companion is given to provide a guiding light more faithful and constant than any other illumination.

Jesus tells the rich man that he lacks "one thing." It's as if Jesus is holding up a teleprompter, providing the obvious next line for the man, "Yes, I will sell all, give to the poor and receive the treasure you are offering me." If only the man had realized what the author of Wisdom did, that he needed something he didn't have, couldn't provide for himself and yet, could receive as a gift from Jesus. The man missed an opportunity to put aside what is transitory and to receive what is better than gold and silver: the One who is Wisdom for life. But he couldn't do both, follow Jesus and still cling to riches. He couldn't have two masters, for as Jesus once said, such a person would surely be faithful to one and betray the other.

Mark opens this section of his gospel by telling us that Jesus is setting out on a journey. A journey is not a fixed and secure place, and the traveler must be flexible and willing to change. At different stages of a journey we must respond to changing circumstances, to what life presents to us. The man found security in his riches, while responding to Jesus and following him on his journey, would have meant: pulling up roots; traveling light, going to places he had never seen before; meeting people he might otherwise never gotten to know. His community would not be of his own choosing, but would be determined by others who had also accepted Jesus' invitation. The man's riches not only provided him everyday security, but gave him the freedom and authority to determine his own fate. Following Jesus would have meant a fate determined by the man's new status as a disciple of Jesus. And Jesus has been telling his followers about the suffering that awaits him and those who follow him.

Jesus' journey is taking him to Jerusalem. Where he goes, those who accepted his invitation, will also go. In Jerusalem Jesus' suffering and death will break the grasp evil has over the world, his death will bring the unexpected---new life---something all the riches in the world can not purchase; all the labors we do, cannot earn. Today's liturgy provides us with an opportunity to acknowledge our illusions. We know that our health, possessions and independence do not give us a security that lasts. We want what the man wants, "eternal life." It is not just unending life, but is a deeper, richer and more satisfying life where riches are experienced within and in the relationships that result from this new life.

Is Jesus just talking to the Bill Gates of the world? Since we are not rich, has he let us off the hook and only a few need heed his words? Not at all, he is talking to poor people and he wants them to shift their attention and ways of thinking about their relationship with God. In Jesus' world the rich were considered blessed by God, their wealth a sign of divine favor. The poor, with no visible sign of "blessing," were thought to be outside God's loving gaze. So, the rich man's wealth would have been seen as a visible sign of being in God's good graces. By inviting the rich man to give up his riches, he is asking him to give up all his blessings, and to trust that his relationship with Jesus was all he needed for life. His disciples, we are told, were amazed at his words. Of course, they would be, since they saw the riches as blessings from God. Jesus' invitation to the man was an offer to receive life through him, even if it meant not having the visible signs of blessings normally associated with wealth. Following Jesus would be the blessing in the man's life and believing in Jesus, would put the man in right relationship with God. But it would require leaving the security of home, possessions and the relationships that had been part of the man's life. It would also mean living on the road, experiencing daily change, suffering the ridicule of respected religious leaders and even persecution. In order to live such a life the man would have to keep his eyes fixed on Jesus, his new and lasting treasure.

We could ask ourselves today what is keeping us from taking God more seriously in our lives. What makes us less flexible, less able to be more responsive to the inner call we are hearing? What are the "riches" we are clinging to, the distractions that keep us from a more serious search for God and doing God's will in the world? Right now, right here...we can't pack up and hit the road. For most of us that would be irresponsible. But there are ways in daily life to "set out on a journey" with Christ. Each day we tune our selves to God's Word by prayer and we try to hear the invitation Jesus extends to us to follow him and serve him again and again in our families, work, school and social activities.


"Once I get beyond the sheer text of the Old Testament and the New, the word of the Lord comes to me slowly, at times indistinctly; I am not sure what He wants me to say; often I agonize whether it is His word I am uttering or only mine. I must wrestle with Scripture and its multifarious exegetes, come to grips with the Church's tradition and its parti-colored interpreters, uncover the needs of a complex people in a changing world, help make the mystery of Christ present and active in their concrete existence. Not as dangerous to my health as the commission of the prophets, but far more complicated. The word of the Lord came to them; you and I must come to the Lord---best on our knees." - Walter Burghardt, S.J. in Preaching: the Art and the Craft, page 41.


Robert Mickens (The Tablet)
POPE BENEDICT has given unconditional support to recent efforts by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, to save the Amazon rainforest, .
The Pope sent a high-ranking personal envoy to Brazil, where the Orthodox Church held an international symposium on the environment from 13 to 20 July. More than 200 scientists, ecologists and leaders of the three monotheistic religions took part in the symposium, held on 10 boats that wound their way through Amazonian rivers.
"I sincerely hope, Your Holiness, that the sixth symposium, dedicated to the Rio of the Amazons, will again attract the attention of peoples and governments concerning the problems, the needs, and the urgency of a region whose ecological balance is so tried and so threatened," the Pope said in a message he sent with papal envoy, Cardinal Roger Etchegeray.
The primary object of the "floating" conference was to spark international cooperation to preserve the Amazon, which environmental experts say is central to maintaining climate stability, biodiversity, and water cycles around the globe. In his message the Pope said the Amazon's "rivers and forests, in their beauty and grandeur, speak to us of God and his work for the benefit of humanity". He noted that the "immense region" was "an open book whose pages reveal the mystery of life".
Benedict XVI underlined the importance of the Catholic and Orthodox churches working together in promoting a catechism on creation. He said this could have "an important impact on the perceived value of life itself and on the adequate solution of inescapable social problems".
(Submitted by Mary Doyle, Diocese of Oakland, California, Social Justice Resources)


"It is time to abandon the death penalty -- not just because of what it does to those who are executed, but because of how it diminishes all of us... We ask all Catholics--pastors, catechists, educators and parishioners -- to join us in rethinking this difficult issue and committing ourselves to pursuing justice without vengeance. With our Holy Father, we seek to build a society so committed to human life that it will not sanction the killing of any human person.
------( "Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice," U.S. Catholic Bishops, Nov. 2000,)
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I am posting in this space several inmates' names and locations. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know that: we have not forgotten them; are praying for them and their families; or, whatever personal encouragement you might like to give them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina's, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." Thanks, Jude Siciliano, OP
Please write to:........................................
Carl Moseley #0294214 (On death row since 10/1/92 )
John L. Conaway #0084604 (10-/19/92)
Nathan Bowie #0039561 (2/5/93)
---Central Prison 1300 Western Blvd. Raleigh, NC 27606


CD Available: "FIRST IMPRESSIONS: PREACHING REFLECTIONS ON LITURGICAL YEARS B & C. These CD's contains two reflections for almost all the Sundays and major feasts of the year. In addition, there are helpful essays for preaching during the liturgical seasons (Advent, Lent, the Triduum, etc.),ten book reviews and essays on various aspects of preaching. The files are in three formats (Microsoft Word, WordPerfect and Adobe Acrobat Reader) so you should have no trouble opening them on your computer. For more information and to purchase go to: http://judeop.ispraleigh.com/

ABOUT DONATIONS: If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to Jude Siciliano, O.P., Make checks to "Dominican Friars of Raleigh." Mail contributions to: Jude Siciliano, O.P., Dominican Friars of Raleigh, P.O. Box 12927, Raleigh, N.C. 27605


I get notes from people responding to these reflections. Sometimes they tell how they use "First Impressions" in their ministry and for personal use. Others respond to the reflections, make suggestions and additions. I think our readers would benefit from these additional thoughts. If you drop me a BRIEF note, I will be happy to add your thoughts and reflections to my own. (Judeop@Juno.com)

Our webpage addresses:
(Where you will find "Preachers' Exchange," which includes these reflections and Homilias Dominicales, as well as articles, book reviews and quotes pertinent to preaching.)
http://www.opsouth.org Under "Preachers' Exchange"

"Homilias Dominicales"-- these Spanish reflections are written by four friars of the Southern Dominican Province experienced in Hispanic Ministry, Isidore Vicente, Carmen Mele, Brian Pierce and Juan Martin Torres. Like "First Impressions", "Homilias Dominicales" are a preacher's early reflections on the upcoming Sunday readings and liturgy. So, if you or a friend would like to receive "Homilias Dominicales" drop a note to John Boll, O.P. at: jboll@opsouth.org
"First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Southern Dominican Province, U.S.A. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to John Boll at the above Email address.
If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to:
Jude Siciliano, OP, Promoter of Preaching
Southern Dominican Province, USA
P.O. Box 12927,
Raleigh, N.C. 27605
(919) 833-1893
Make checks to: Dominican Friars of Raleigh.
Thank you.