BY: Fr. Jude Chijioke



Readings: Wisdom 7, 7-11; Hebrews 4: 12-13; Mark 10: 17-30

We have before us a famous Gospel passage, built on the tension between wealth and discipleship, the opposition between the kingdom of wealth and the Kingdom of God. This passage explains better a continuous orientation of Jesus’ preaching: “You cannot serve two masters; you cannot serve God and Mammon” (Lk 16:13). Material goods possessed in excessive abundance are an insurmountable shield that hinders conversion and the following of Christ. Only a miracle wrought by divine grace by which nothing is impossible – continues Jesus – can snatch the rich man from his idolatry and his selfishness and introduce him into the itinerary traced by the suffering and poor Christ.

Excessive wealth is a great symbol that embraces many faces of possessions: things, waste, pride, self-sufficiency, the supremacy of economic laws over moral ones, profit as an end in itself, selfishness, pleasure , vanity, political and cultural arrogance, etc. Once again Christ reveals himself to be radical and demanding; he asks the disciple for a total and systematic choice, free from compromises and adaptations, because the charm of this idol-symbol is powerful and lacerating. The choice between the living God and dead riches, between the suffering flesh of the brother and the gloomy frenzy of enjoyment, waste, or accumulation, is one of the supreme decisions and often results in betrayal, abandonment of Christ or in hypocritical stunts. In this regard, Jesus often loves to be firm: “Whoever of you that is not willing to renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:33).

But it is not a question of a painful renunciation or a pietistic contempt for material goods. Jesus does not ask his disciple to throw all their material possessions into the sea. To the rich man in today’s Gospel, he says: “Go, sell what you have and give to the poor!”. The victory over the fascination of things and of “having” takes place not in a generic spiritual detachment or in a blind pauperism but in giving and in “being” free and generous people.

Significant in this sense is the dialogue between Peter and Jesus, which follows the failed vocation of the rich man. It is governed by two pairs of verbs. Peter uses the expression “we have given up everything to follow you”, alluding to his vocation on the shores of the lake of Tiberias. Jesus corrects Peter’s sentence with a positive approach: “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who have given up everything for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now…”. The donation of the self or material realities to Christ does not mean their forfeiture but their enhancement. What is given is found even more exalted, enriched, and enlarged. A profound joy, wellbeing, an unexpected security and peace become “already at the present” the joyful inheritance of those who have emptied themselves of all attachment and possession to make Christ and his Gospel break into them.

Detachment from things is therefore not sufficient if it is not creative, that is, if it is not positively oriented towards the great human and spiritual values of solidarity and love. In this sense, the speech of Jesus can be put in continuity and parallel with today’s first reading, taken from the book of Wisdom. Material goods pass in front of Solomon, the emblem of perfect sage and politician: scepters, thrones, riches, gems, gold, silver, health, beauty, light. Yet all these realities are inconsistent, they are a handful of mud or sand if compared with wisdom, that is, with that gift that enriches man in depth.

Let us then take up the appeal this liturgy of the word addresses to us on an ever-hot topic. “It is not enough to empty the heart of the self, of things and riches, it is necessary to fill it with Christ, with life, with wisdom, with God”. Christ reminds us that authentic “being” is in giving, in losing out of love, in generosity.

Fr. Jude Chijioke

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