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The Athenaeum of Ohio

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati

By Father Timothy P. Schehr

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Wisdom 7:7-11; Hebrews 4:12-13; Mark 10:17-30

One sign of progress is learning to ask the right questions. In the readings for this Sunday, we hear about people who show progress in the journey of faith by asking the right things of God.

In the Gospel, someone asks Jesus what to do to inherit eternal life? This is just the right question to ask of Jesus. It shows that the one who asked it was truly listening to what Jesus had to say.

Things look very good for the man at first. When Jesus refers to the commandments, the man is able to say he has kept them all from the time he was little. Jesus looks at him and sees all the good in him. We might then expect Jesus to announce that there is nothing more for the man to do. But Jesus sees one attachment in the man that might interfere with his progress. He asks the man to let go of his possessions and follow Him. We know this is difficult for the man to do because he does not respond right away. Instead, he just walks away, sad because he would have to let go of his many possessions.

Did he ever exchange his earthly treasure for a heavenly one? Was he sad because he knew how hard it would be for him to say goodbye to his things? Or was he sad because Jesus had even asked him to do what He knew would be impossible. We will never know. But thinking about it will help us make progress in our own journeys of faith.

Possessions really can get in the way. They provide us with a certain sense of security. Can we really let them go and seek security in God? The image of the camel passing through the eye of a needle is just the right one for this lesson. Camels served as the transports of the day. People would see camels loaded with baggage making their way along the caravan routes of antiquity. So Jesus chooses just the right image to represent our attachment to the baggage in our lives.

Peter immediately points out to Jesus that he and the others have given up everything to follow Him. And Jesus assures Peter that he has not made a mistake. God will fill their lives with so much more because they have emptied their lives to pursue spiritual goods. Of course, Peter and the others do not yet understand all of what they said. Their detachment from the world would involve much more than material things. In time, they would go so far as to surrender their lives for the Gospel. But, God will provide the grace for that, too, when the time comes.

In the first reading, we hear wise King Solomon asking God for the right things. Solomon prays for the spirit of wisdom. He wants that gift from God that enables him to put everything in proper perspective. If he can learn to see the world from God's viewpoint, then everything else will fall into place, and he will rule his kingdom with perfect wisdom.

Of course, the Solomon of history never got this far in the faith journey. He did have a dream about asking God for wisdom. But, after he woke up from that dream, he never made it reality. In the Book of Wisdom, the ideal Solomon does what the Solomon of history did not.

(Father Schehr is a member of the faculty at the Athenaeum of Ohio in Cincinnati.)