Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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“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.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Prayer for the Gift of Wisdom

Great is the wisdom of the Lord!

God Almighty, Your Wisdom includes

An understanding of what is fair,

What is logical, what is true,

What is right and what is lasting.

It mirrors Your pure intellect!

I entreat You to grant me such Wisdom,

That my labors may reflect Your insight.

Your Wisdom expands in Your creations,

Displaying complexity and multiplicity.

Your Wisdom is an eternity ahead of man.

May Your wisdom flourish forever!

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COLLECT

May your grace, O Lord, we pray,

at all times go before us and follow after

and make us always determined

to carry out good works.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

Wis 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.

The word of the Lord.

APPLICATION

Though this Book of Wisdom was written over two thousand years ago, the message we have read from it today is so timely and practical for us Christians that it might well

have been written last week! The reason is that real wisdom is unchangeable. It is a correct knowledge and understanding of the eternal truths that God has revealed to us and as these truths are unchanged and unchangeable so is our knowledge of them. The author clearly realized that reaching eternal life was the one and only aim worth striving for in this life; all his other occupations here below were only temporary and transient while eternal life is permanent and therefore well worth the sacrifice of all earthly attractions.

He was willing to forego all earthly wealth: gold, silver and precious gems, and all earthly power including a king’s throne, rather than desert wisdom which would lead him to everlasting wealth. This is what all sane men would and should do when they are convinced that an unending life of happiness awaits them. No Christian doubts this. The very meaning of Christianity is a rule of life which directs our actions while on this earth, so that we shall enter heaven when we die. Christ did not come on earth without a purpose; he did not suffer and die in vain. He became man and suffered and died so that those who would follow him and keep the rules he laid down for them would enter into heaven when they breathed their last breath.

It was not then to make life here hard for us but to put eternal life within our reach that he commanded us to bear our crosses, our troubles and trials in life. He told us not to let ourselves be ensnared by the attractions of this world, its wealth, its positions of honor, its pleasures. But he did not forbid us to use wisely, that is, in moderation and within his rules, the pleasures, power and goods of this world. As Christians, we can enjoy the pleasures and happiness of family life; we can own property; we can accept positions of authority–provided always that these things will not come between us and our real life which is eternal life.

It is here that too many Christians fail. They let themselves become so absorbed in their pursuit of pleasure, or in the acquisition of wealth or power, that they leave themselves no time for the things of God, the things that really matter. If such people only stopped and asked themselves the question: during the two thousands years of Christianity did any of those who lost heaven because they became too absorbed in the things of earth, ever get real happiness and satisfaction out of their few years on earth? Was there ever a rich man who was truly happy with all he had, and deliberately stopped getting richer? Was there ever a pleasure-lover who could say that he was content with all the pleasure he had received? Did not these very pleasures interfere with his health and shorten the already too-short span he had to enjoy himself?

No, chasing after the will-of-the-wisp attractions of this life is not the occupation of a sane man, much less of the truly wise man–as a Christian is by his profession. We have been given a period of time here during which we can earn our future reward; any days,

months or years wasted on other pursuits will be hard to replace. The mercy of God is infinite, and while there have been from time to time exceptional cases of deathbed conversions, the only sure way of passing our final examination is to have learned, during the years God gave us for this purpose here below, the answers to the questions we shall be asked.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 90:12-13, 14-15, 16-17

Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!

Teach us to number our days aright,

that we may gain wisdom of heart.

Return, O LORD! How long?

Have pity on your servants!

Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!

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.

Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!

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!

Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!

READING II

Heb 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.

The word of the Lord.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 302 Creation has its own goodness and proper perfection, but it did not spring forth complete from the hands of the Creator. The universe was created “in a state of journeying” (in statu viae) toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained, to which God has destined it. We call “divine providence” the dispositions by which God guides his creation toward this perfection:

By his providence God protects and governs all things which he has made, “reaching mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and ordering all things well”. For “all are open and laid bare to his eyes”, even those things which are yet to come into existence through the free action of creatures.1

1 Vatican Council I, Dei Filius 1: DS 3003; cf. Wis 8:1; Heb 4:13.

APPLICATION

The sacred author of this epistle, writing for Jewish converts who presumably knew their history, is urging them not to make the same mistake as did their ancestors in the desert. They did not believe God’s promise and they disobeyed him. For that reason they did not enter into the Promised Land of Canaan, they died in the desert. Now Christians through Christ have been promised and are made heirs of God’s place of eternal rest, but unless they live their faith and obey God they too will end up like their disobedient ancestors in the desert.

Some of his intended readers may have been foolish themselves–pretending externally to be Christians while their thoughts and intentions were not. He reminds them of God’s omniscience. He knows not only their external actions but their every thought and their most secret intentions. Therefore, external observance will not earn the heavenly rest for them, their heart and spirit must be in their daily observance of the Christian way of life.

There is a warning here for all of us and it is that not a single thought or action of our lives can remain unknown to the God who will be our Judge on our day of reckoning. We can fool ourselves, and fool our neighbors by carrying out the externals of the Christian law while in our hearts we have evil thoughts, evil intentions and sentiments of rebellion against our Creator. The Christian who behaves in this way is foolish in the extreme and he is fooling only himself. He cannot hide his wrong intentions or his rebellious inclinations from God who reads his heart and his mind. Unless he changes his relations with God and humbly submits himself to God’s will he has little hope of entering the promised land of heaven.

Among us there are others who spoil and make useless those Christian acts that would earn heaven for them–by their refusal to repent of a sin or sins they have committed. To their friends and neighbors they may appear as model Christians but in the eyes of God they are proud and stubborn subjects who will not bend their knee to God and ask for the pardon which he is ever willing to give even to the greatest sinners. While they are in this state of sin they can earn no merit for heaven. Our God is a God of mercy, he has gone to incredible lengths to share his kingdom with us. He knows all our weaknesses and is ever ready to raise us up again when we fall–if we repent and turn to him. There is no sin we can commit, no matter how serious it be, that he cannot forgive and blot out

if only we ask him to do so. Of those Christians whom God will have to condemn on the judgement day not one will be condemned because he sinned: but he will be condemned because he did not repent and ask God’s pardon for his sins.

Let us never forget that God’s eyes are always on us, not only to see our innermost faults but also to be ever ready to succor and help us. He is a loving Father and he will not give us a cross too heavy to bear. If, when we have crosses, we stay close to him and ask for his help he will most certainly answer our call.

GOSPEL
Mk 10:17-30

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.”

The Gospel of the Lord.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 1618 Christ is the center of all Christian life. The bond with him takes precedence over all other bonds, familial or social.1 From the very beginning of the Church there have been men and women who have renounced the great good of marriage to follow the Lamb wherever he goes, to be intent on the things of the Lord, to seek to please him, and to go out to meet the Bridegroom who is coming.2 Christ himself has invited certain persons to follow him in this way of life, of which he remains the model:

For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”3

CCC 1858 Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: “Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother.”4 The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.

CCC 2728 Finally, our battle has to confront what we experience as failure in prayer: discouragement during periods of dryness; sadness that, because we have “great possessions,”5 we have not given all to the Lord; disappointment over not being heard according to our own will; wounded pride, stiffened by the indignity that is ours as sinners; our resistance to the idea that prayer is a free and unmerited gift; and so forth. The conclusion is always the same: what good does it do to pray? To overcome these obstacles, we must battle to gain humility, trust, and perseverance.

1 Cf. Lk 14:26; Mk 10:28-31.

2 Cf. Rev 14:4; 1 Cor 7:32; Mt 2:56.

3 Mt 19:12.

4 Mk 10:19.

5 Cf. Mk 10:22.

APPLICATION

By coming to Jesus with his problem this man has done all Christians a good turn. We have learned from Christ’s answer that over-attachment to worldly goods is one of the big obstacles to entering heaven. The man in this story was a good-living man, he kept all the commandments from his youth upward and he had an interest in eternal life, while many of his compatriots of that day had not. Reading this man’s heart like an open book, Christ saw that not only was he fit for eternal life but that he was one who could have a very high place in heaven if he would leave everything and become a close

follower of his. Not only would be become a saint, but he would lead many to sanctity.

The price to pay for this privilege, however, seemed too high to this “good man.” “He had great possessions” and he was too attached to them so he could not accept Christ’s offer, “his countenance fell and he went away sorrowful.” Although his case was exceptional, Christ saw in him the makings of a saint and he asked him to make an exceptional sacrifice, one which he did not and does not ask of all his followers; his remark to the disciples later: “how hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God” holds for all time and for all mankind.

This statement of Christ, however, does not mean that a follower may not possess any of this world’s goods. He may possess and use those goods, but what he must not do is to allow them to take such a hold on him that he has no time for acquiring everlasting goods–the Christian virtues. Unfortunately, there are Christians whose whole purpose in this life is the accumulation of worldly goods. Concentration on such accumulation is wrong, but in many cases the methods of acquisition are unjust: defrauding laborers of their just wages; overcharging customers; cheating in business deals; giving false measures and many other devices which produce unearned wealth.

All this is far from Christian justice, and those who have let such sinful greed to regulate their lives are certainly not on the road, to heaven. There are other sins, of course, which can keep us from heaven, but of all the sins a man can commit this irrational greed for the wealth of this world seems the most unreasonable of them all. How utterly inane and foolish to have spent a lifetime collecting something from which we shall soon be parted forever! The rich man’s bank-book and his gilt-edged shares will be not only valueless in the after-life but they, if unjustly acquired, will be witnesses for the prosecution at the judgement on which one’s eternal future depends. While most of us are not guilty of such excessive greed for wealth, we all do need to examine our consciences as to how we acquire and use the limited wealth we have. There are very rich men who have acquired their wealth honestly and justly and who spend much of their wealth on charitable causes. Their wealth will not hinder them from reaching heaven. On the other hand, there are many in the middle and lower income-bracket who may be offending against justice through the means they use to acquire what they have, and in the little helps which they refuse to a needy neighbor. We may not be able to found a hospital for the poor, or pay an annuity to support the family of a disabled fellow workman, but we are not excused from bringing a little gift to our neighbors who are in hospital, or from supplying even part of a meal for the dependents of the injured workman.

Remember that Christ praised the widow who put a mite (a cent) into the collection-box for the poor in the temple area, and he also said that a cup of cold water given in his name would not go without reward. We need not be rich in order to be charitable; often

our own exaggerated sense of our poverty can make us hard-hearted and mean toward our fellowman who look to us for help. The true Christian, whose principal purpose in life is to serve God, will not overburden himself with unnecessary pieces of luggage; instead he will travel light and be ever ready to help others also to carry their burdens.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Ignatius Press.

BENEDICTUS

God Becomes Our Richness

The poverty that Jesus means – that the prophets mean – presupposes above all inner freedom from the greed for possession and the mania for power. This is a greater reality than merely a different distribution of possessions, which would still be in the material domain and thereby make hearts even harder. It is first and foremost a matter of purification of heart, through which one recognizes possession as responsibility, as a duty towards others, placing oneself under God’s gaze and letting oneself be guided by Christ, who from being rich became poor for our sake (cf. 2 Cor 8: 9). Inner freedom is the prerequisite for overcoming the corruption and greed that devastate the world today. This freedom can only be found if God becomes our richness; it can only be found in the patience of daily sacrifices, in which, as it were, true freedom develops. It is the King who points out to us the way to this goal: Jesus, whom we acclaim on Palm Sunday, whom we ask to take us with him on his way… He comes in all cultures and all parts of the world, everywhere, in wretched huts and in poor rural areas as well as in the splendor of cathedrals. He is the same everywhere, the One, and thus all those gathered with him in prayer and communion are also united in one body. Christ rules by making himself our Bread and giving himself to us. It is in this way that he builds his kingdom.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in you we contemplate the splendor of true love, to you we turn with trust. Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that our families too may be places of communion and prayer, authentic schools of the Gospel and small domestic Churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth, may families never again experience violence, rejection and division: may all who have been hurt or scandalized find ready comfort and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth, may the approaching Synod of Bishops make us once more mindful of the sacredness and inviolability of the family, and its beauty in God’s plan.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,

graciously hear our prayer.

Amen

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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