First Reading (Wisdom 7: 7-11)
I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her, nor did I liken any priceless gem to her; because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand, and before her, silver is to be accounted mire. Beyond health and comeliness I loved her, and I chose to have her rather than the light, because the splendor of her never yields to sleep. Yet all good things together came to me in her company, and countless riches at her hands.
Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 90: 12-17)
Refrain: Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy.
1) Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants! (Refrain)
2) Fill us at daybreak with your kindness, that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.
Make us glad, for the days when you afflicted us, for the years when we saw evil. (Refrain)
3) Let your work be seen by your servants and your glory by their children;
and may the gracious care of the Lord our God be ours; prosper the work of our hands for us!
Prosper the work of our hands! (Refrain)
Second Reading (Hebrews 4: 12-13)
Brothers and sisters: Indeed the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus answered him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother." He replied and said to him, "Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth." Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, "You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God." Peter began to say to him, "We have given up everything and followed you." Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come."
Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.
The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved.
Used with permission of ICEL.]
Storytelling the Word, by William J. Bausch, pp. 182-184. Twenty-third Publications, Mystic, CT. 06355: 1996.
Secretary to St. Peter: The Gospel of Mark, by Dr. Donald Strobe, pp. 162-166. Seven Worlds Corporation, 310 Simmons Road, Knoxville, TN. 37922.
Days of the Lord, Volume 5, pp.256-264. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN., 1993.
The Epistle to the Hebrews, by William Barclay. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, 1975.
The Cultural World of Jesus, by John J. Pilch, pp.148-150. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN. 1996.
The Word Encountered, by John F. Kavanaugh, pp. 111-113. Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY 1996.
Mark, by Wilfrid Harrington, pp. 156-162. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN. 1979.
Catechism: #2402-2406 (Goods and private property) & 2443-2449 (Love for the Poor). United States Catholic Conference, Washington, D.C.: 1994. [As recommended by: A Homily Sourcebook (The Universal Catechism), by N. Abeyasingha. The Pastoral Press, Washington, D.C.: 1993.]
- How often have we heard sad stories of parents who thought they could buy their children love but who didn't see the value of loving, caring acts which cost nothing?
- The catechism states that respect for human dignity requires the practice of the virtue of temperance, so as to moderate attachment to this world's goods; the practice of the virtue of justice, to preserve our neighbor's rights and render them what is due; and the practice of social charity (or solidarity) in keeping with the generosity of the Lord who "though He was rich, yet for our sake, became poor so that by His poverty, we might become rich". (#2407)
- See also "Poor in Spirit" in Thematic Index.
Year of Faith, Week 1
We all have a need to belong. For example, we all belong to a family. Perhaps we belong to some groups of people with whom we share a common interest or need. And I think, especially at this time of the year, some of us enjoy attending, or hosting, football parties where we can get together with family and friends and cheer on our favorite teams like the Giants or Jets or, heaven forbid, the Eagles! This should not be surprising since God has made us in His own image, which means that we are made to be in relationships with one another, just as the Father, Son and Spirit are in relationship to each other. And to be left out of relationships can be a devastating thing. Consider those in solitary confinement in prison. And history has shown that many of those who commit crimes, including violent crimes, have not had meaningful relationships, or even been loved, as children.
In the same way, we need to belong to a faith community. About a year ago, our Holy Father announced that this current year would be a "Year of Faith" throughout the whole Church extending from last weekend until the Feast of Christ the King in November 2013. This should give us an opportunity to think about, to pray about, to talk about and to celebrate the very thing that makes us belong, that creates us as a community, that unites us all: our Catholic faith.
We all are aware that attendance at church is down dramatically, and not just for Catholics, but for all religious denominations.
- Some months ago, there was an article in America magazine which summarized a survey commissioned by our own Bishop David O’Connell to study why people had left the church. Some mentioned that the homilies they heard weren’t touching their lives. Others mentioned poor music. Many mentioned that they disagreed with some Church teachings including birth control, same-sex marriage, divorce, the lack of women as priests or deacons, the absence of married priests and more. Whatever the reasons, the Church is not touching the lives of believers as it did some fifty years ago.
However, we all have our reasons why we still come to church regularly. Perhaps it’s as simple a reason as “well, that’s what we do!”. In researching materials for this homily, I turned to a Chicken Soup book which is devoted to stories about the Catholic faith. I found one that I thought was very appropriate. The author writes:
- As a young child, I can honestly say I did not want for anything. My life really was perfect. And, as was typical for Catholic families in Southern California, God was a big part of my life.
My mother taught us that God was everywhere. Though we may not have voiced it as we ran wild along the lake shores and through the forests learning about our world, we were aware of who was responsible for all of our blessings.
Oftentimes, Mom stopped quarrels among my eight siblings and me with the words, "Count your blessings". I grew up thinking God loved us better than most. After all, He'd given us a lot of blessings to count.
My life was perfect. But then when I became fifteen, things started to change. I thought I knew everything. Seemingly overnight, my younger siblings became a constant source of bother and more and more I came to the realization that my parents were not as smart as I had once thought.
As soon as I was old enough to date, time existed solely for me. Oh, I saw the looks my parents and younger siblings gave me. What did they know? I hung near the back door of the church with the other teenagers and skipped out of Mass early. We had better things to do.
By the time I was twenty, I felt that something was missing. I wanted to get married. I argued that my wedding should take place in an apple orchard. My mother was appalled. Her words were, "Inside God's house or I'm not coming!" I argued that she'd taught me that God's house was everywhere. She said His garden was everywhere, but His house was the church, and it was a matter of respect. I finally gave in and got married, in the same Catholic Church I'd attended since birth. The Sacrament of Marriage was a bright and peaceful addition to my life.
I didn't want to admit it, but God had a lot to do with that feeling and Mass was now something I attended regularly on my husband's arm. A permanent grin on my face, I settled down to the perfect life... or so I thought. But, before I knew it, I felt something was missing once again.
Why wasn't I happy? Why didn't I feel complete? I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but something made me cry myself to sleep at night. Then I realized what it was. Six of my siblings were married and pregnant. I was the only one married and not pregnant. Night after night, I knelt at my bedside, and prayed to God for the child I so desperately wanted. Next came rosaries, and before long, God answered my prayers.
For me, the moment my firstborn child was laid in my arms all things fell into place. Everything had been restored... running barefoot along the lakes and through the forests, skipping stones on calm waters, walking in the cool garden soil, and smiling proudly as chubby fingers explored the pages of a prayer book in the front pew.
That was twenty-two years ago. Since then my world has been complete. As I watch my three children grow, I see the same aloof teenagers as I myself had once been. I watch as my eldest two work on Sunday, sleep in and miss Mass, or simply forget there is such a thing as church. I frown. I purchase rosaries and nudge them in the right direction. I pray for them to return to the flock, as I'm sure my mother prayed for me.
The same bewildered look my younger siblings wore is now reflected in my youngest child's eyes as his sisters desert him for the realm of important things he's not invited to join. I feel his loss, but know it's only momentary. Soon, he, too, will stumble up through the ranks from childhood to adulthood, and by the time he arrives at the stage they're in right now, they'll be on their return trip.
Occasionally, on Sunday mornings I feel a presence at my side and move to make room for our eldest, who's found a need to be in God's house again. I smile, push my limits and offer her a rosary. She politely declines. I nod and return it to my pocket, but my smile doesn't fade. I pray for patience, and look forward to the not-so distant future. I hold fast to my faith. I know the light will reach through and all of my children will find their way home just as their mother did. (1)
The Holy Father has has emphasized that we should all give renewed energy to the mission of the whole Church to lead men and women out of the desert they are in and toward the place where there is a friendship with Christ who can give them the fullness of life, where they can achieve a moment of grace and make a commitment to an even fuller conversion to God. It is here that we can also reinforce our own faith in Him and, refreshed in Spirit, proclaim Him with joy to the people of our time.
So perhaps this is as good a time as any to approach family, friends, neighbors and any others we know who don’t come to church regularly anymore and tell them why we still go and what we love about our faith. And we should never forget that we don’t even have to enter into conversations with others about our faith; they can see it in the way we live our lives.
1. You can view the article here.
2. Coming Home by Norma Jean. From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living the Catholic Faith, pp. 330 - 333. Copyright 2008 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and LeAnn Thieman. Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing LLC.
(Copyright 2015 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for use, in whole or in part, in oral presentations. For permission to use in writing, please contact the human intermediary at email@example.com.)
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
As has been the modus operandi of the last few weeks, today's gospel passage can be divided into three sections: the first part is the narrative of the rich young man, the second concerns our Lord's teaching about riches, and the third is his discussion about the reward which will come to those who have sacrificed everything to follow him.
First of all, the young man comes running up to Jesus, full of excitement, sure that he will receive good news from him about his own life. After all, popular Jewish tradition held that prosperity was the sign of a good person, one who had been blessed by God. But once Jesus advises him to go, sell what he owns, give to the poor, and come and follow him, the young man turns away sad because he had many possessions.
Jesus then goes on to teach the disciples how difficult it is for those who are rich to attain their eternal reward. First of all, wealth fixes a person's heart in this world and not in the next. That is why Jesus told the rich young man to go and sell what he had and build up a treasure in heaven. As long as he had earthly riches, he could not focus on heaven. Secondly, if someone's main interest is in material possessions, then they will think in terms of price and not in terms of value. It is interesting to note that Webster defines value first of all as something of monetary or material worth, but also as that which is right or desirable. In other words, one's values are one's basic principles, moral standards or virtues. William Barclay tells the following story to illustrate this point.
- A shepherd's wife wrote to a newspaper how moving from the country to the city had changed her children. She wrote that they had grown up in the loneliness of the country where life was simple and unsophisticated. Once her husband took a position in the city, the children changed for the worse. She concluded her letter by asking: "Which is preferable for a child's upbringing: a lack of worldly possessions, but with better manners and a simple and sincere way of life; or having worldly possessions along with a knowledge of the price of everything, but knowing the true value of nothing?" (1)
In other words, her children had lost their sense of moral standards in moving and that was a sad thing. They had given up their simple, peasant life in order to have a more comfortable one, but had made a terrible sacrifice in so doing. Even though virtues don't have a monetary value, she regretted their loss by her children because, as she found out, money isn't everything.
As we heard in the gospel, the rich man could either give up his worldly things to follow Jesus and obtain a heavenly reward, or keep his treasure on earth. "To follow" Jesus, which is an expression that describes discipleship, demands that we prefer Him over everything else, that we accompany Him without looking back, free from all attachment. This verse led St. Anthony and many others like him, to renounce all things and espouse evangelical poverty in religious and monastic life. We recently celebrated the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, who also gave up all of his earthly inheritance to live a life of poverty. He responded to the same challenge which our Lord posed to the rich young man in today's gospel with an emphatic "yes".
In our first reading, we heard the author of the book of Wisdom state that he, like St. Francis, preferred wisdom to riches. He goes on to say that even though he gave up everything for wisdom, "all good things came together in the company of Wisdom, and countless riches at her hands." These words echo the implications in our Lord's response to Peter's statement in the third part of the gospel that the disciples have given up everything to follow Jesus. His response to Peter is that those who sacrifice everything for his sake will receive a hundred times more in the present day, along with persecutions, and eternal life.
All of these things actually happened in the life of Paul. No doubt, when Paul became a Christian, the door of his home slammed in his face and his family disowned him. But equally without a doubt, wherever he went in Europe and in Asia Minor, there was city upon city, town upon town, village upon village where he could find a home waiting for him and a family in Christ to welcome him. It would be so of every Christian in the early days. When their own family rejected them, they entered into the wider family of Christ. So it was for St. Francis and for St. Anthony.
So what does all this have to do with us? We can look at the lives of all the people we have mentioned today: the author of Wisdom, Peter and the disciples, the rich young man, Paul, St. Francis, St. Anthony and many more whom we have not mentioned. All of these people had one thing in common. They all faced a moment of decision. Some said "yes" to Jesus' call and others said "no". We all face similar times of decision in our own lives. Will we say "yes" to the things of this world, or will we say "yes" to the Word of God who is Jesus, of whom Paul speaks in the second reading. In the first verse of his gospel, John states that "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." It is that Word which sees into our hearts. Nothing is hidden from him to whom we must give an account.
Today, we heard our Lord tell us how difficult it is for someone who is attached to material things to get to heaven, as difficult as it is to get a camel through the eye of a needle. He obviously did not mean that we should not have possessions, but rather that those possessions do not interfere with our love of God. A moderate amount of material things is necessary for life. However, one who has excessive wealth believes that this will guarantee their future comfort, which will inevitably, and ever so subtly, lead to a feeling of independence, that they don't need God. Thus, the more possessions that we have, the greater the temptation to forsake Him.
In our lives, we will have to decide whether possessions will control us or whether we will be free enough of their influence to follow the Word of God. I would like to close with the verses to a song which I believe sums up what we have been discussing today so well. Actually, it begins with the words of Peter from John's gospel which we heard just a few weeks ago.
- Lord, to whom can I go? You alone speak the words of life.
You alone on the earth or in heaven above are my Savior and my Lord.
Refrain: I found the treasure in a field that neither time nor death can steal.
I will sell what I have, give all that I am, to hold this treasure as my own.
Christ is not asking us to sell all that we own and live in poverty in order to possess the treasure of his word. But he is asking us not to be attached to our possessions, that is, to be poor in spirit, as he taught us in the first of the beatitudes. Once things become the reason for our living, then they control us, we don't control them.
So what is the treasure? The second verse of this song puts it this way:
- Jesus, Lord of my life, I can ask for nothing more
than to see and believe that my life lies in you, in the kingdom of my Lord. (2)
There is a restlessness in each one of us which can only be fulfilled by a treasure from another source, namely the kingdom of God in heaven. And the way to get there is by following the word of God revealed through his son. Things in this world will never really fulfill us. But if we follow God's word, as Christ as shown us, then we will find true fulfillment and inner peace and discover the true kingdom of God which "neither time nor death can steal".
1. The Gospel of Mark, by William Barclay. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY 1975.
2. I Found the Treasure by Dan Schutte. Copyright 1986 by North American Liturgy Resources. Distributed by Oregon Catholic Press, Portland, Or., Catalog Number 5710.
(Copyright 2012 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for use, in whole or in part, in oral presentations. For permission to use in writing, please contact the human intermediary at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
October 10, 2021
Lord Jesus, you have taught us to forsake the things of this world to build up a treasure in heaven. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, you are the Word who will lead us to your kingdom. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, your kingdom is the treasure we should search for all of our lives. Lord, have mercy.
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
October 10, 2021
Celebrant: All things are possible with God. Therefore, in confidence that God will hear and answer us, we bring our prayers and petitions to the Father.
Deacon/Leader: Our response is "Lord, hear our prayer".
That the leaders of the Church will reveal the wealth of God's Word to their communities, we pray to the Lord.
That the members of the Church will care for the needs of the sick, the elderly, the imprisoned and all shut-ins, we pray to the Lord.
That God might fill the hearts of the parents of every unborn child with love for the child he has placed in their care, we pray to the Lord.
That through our love and faith we might encourage all those who are tempted to suicide to embrace the cross and to live in obedience to their loving Lord, we pray to the Lord.
That every woman whose heart is broken by the sin of abortion might have the courage to accept God's mercy, healing, and peace, we pray to the Lord.
That all of our brothers and sisters will be treated as our equals in the sight of God regardless of their race, color, nationality or religion, we pray to the Lord.
That all of those who have contracted the Corona virus will be healed, that those who have died will be welcomed into the loving arms of their Savior who suffered for them and that their grieving families will find strength in their faith, we pray to the Lord.
For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.
Celebrant: Eternal Father, you love us and hear our prayers. Grant us the grace of your Spirit to open our hearts to the gospel message of your Son, so that one day we may inherit the kingdom prepared for us from all eternity. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.