A reflection by Fr. Ron MacDonell, S.F.M., on Wisdom 7.7-11, Hebrews 4.12-13 and Mark 10.17-30
The letter to the Hebrews presents us with a powerful image of God’s word, “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.” It is God’s word from scripture that consoles and challenges us, that invites us to open up hearts, to see ourselves as we really are – a combination of weaknesses and strengths. We learned God’s word first from our parents and in religion class. Then as adults we learned to nurture a prayer life, to listen to the homilies at Mass, to read spiritual material and to participate in retreats. The first reading from Wisdom speaks about the value of God’s word: “all gold is but a little sand in her sight, and silver will be accounted as clay before her…I chose to have her rather than light, because her radiance never ceases.”
God’s word was made flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the Word. He is the Light of the World. In today’s Gospel, Jesus both comforts and challenges us. In his conversation with the man who seeks the path to eternal life, Jesus reminds him about following the commandments of the Mosaic Law. When the man says that he has kept the commandments since his youth, we learn something very comforting, that Jesus looked at him and “loved him.” To be loved by Jesus! What an immense gift! That is what we all long for in the deepest part of our hearts.
Then comes the challenge, presented by Jesus both to that man and to us. Jesus invites us to sell all we have, give it to the poor, and follow him. Follow him in trust and in detachment from any worldly good or prestige. He goes on to propose a radical opposition between riches and the kingdom of God. Riches impede our entry into the kingdom. Elsewhere Jesus declares, “‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6.24).
The disciples are dismayed. “Then who can be saved?” they say. Who can live up to such a challenge? Jesus then offers two great consolations. First, he tells us that “for God all things are possible.” Placing our faith in God and trusting that God will answer and help us, the impossible can become possible. Secondly, when we are willing to give up our attachments, even our attachment to family and friends whom we love, we gain much more; we gain a large community of sisters and brothers who follow Jesus, who seek to build his kingdom of justice and peace.
The readings invite us to examine our lives. Do we read scripture and let God’s word penetrate our hearts? Do we listen to Jesus, the Word incarnate, by taking time to pray each day? What are our worldly attachments? What are our riches? Are we really willing to let go of these and follow him, radically, into the light of love and service to our sisters and brothers, especially the poor and suffering? When we are discouraged, we can remember the words of Jesus: “for God all things are possible.”