Ordinary 28
Ordinary 28
by Lanie LeBlanc OP

Both the selections from the book of Wisdom and the Gospel according to Mark address the place of possessions in our lives. The author of the first reading prefers wisdom rather than gold and silver or health and comeliness because "all good things together came to me in her (wisdom's) company, and countless riches at her hands." In the Gospel story of the rich young man, Jesus tells him "sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." It seems to me that the message, as I read and hear it, is again about our choices. What is it that we really need to possess to live a “good life” and inherit eternal life?

These readings seem to say to me that our focus should be not so much on the things around us, but what is inside us: God. We want to be "good', to be in God's favor, to follow Jesus, and to have eternal life. The reading from Hebrews says that the word of God is "able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart." So what are we thinking when we make our choices, hoping to "get into" heaven?

Further on in this Gospel selection we read/hear that being saved "is impossible for human beings, but not for God." It is hard for us to hear it, but God does the saving, not us!!! In fact, nothing we do earns us salvation; Jesus already won that for us. Our job is to rid ourselves of the focus on "us" and then focus on God and God's ways. Those pearly gates swing open from the inside!

Jesus always did the will of the Father so God's ways are Jesus's ways. Jesus gives us more than a hint of what to do when he says "sell what you have give to the poor". I do not think Jesus is advocating that all of us become mendicants, however. Even Jesus relied on the wealth of some of his followers to support his ministry. Some of us need wealth so that we can share it.

What did Jesus mean then? I am currently reading fr. Albert Nolan OP 's book Jesus Before Christianity, a wonderful and insightful read. In that book, fr. Nolan points out that Jesus was remarkably different from those of his time and even the prophets before him because of his radical preferential treatment of the poor. Jesus always acted with compassion toward those "without" To me, that is the one thing that truly differentiates a follower of Jesus from the rest of humanity.

My attempt of sorting all of these thoughts through my own contemplation results in a message that is still a work in progress. It is a message about choices, however. I think that what I should strive for is to accept and thus possess the wisdom to discern what in my life will help me focus more and more on God. All else needs to be brushed aside to a secondary place, "sold", and used to foster that goal.

Focusing on God, to me, means trusting that I am in His loving care, no matter what my physical circumstances, possessions, or other broadly taken indications of wealth might seem to indicate. The "poor" includes those who seem to lack physical, emotional, or spiritual solidness, and that is all of us. We need to strive for a fuller understanding that we are all "poor", we all are in God's loving care, and caring for one another is how to follow Jesus and do the will of the Father.

May the spirit of Wisdom help us to peel ourselves away from all those possessions that keep us from God. May we feel comfortable and cared for in our poverty whether it be nakedness, emptiness, or want, so that we can feel God's loving arms of eternal security wrapped around us even now. May we be able to share God's unconditional love with all those we meet and do so from the depths of our most inner being.

(Comments to Lanie at lanieleblanc@mindspring.com.)