CATHOLIC HOMILY FOR THE 28TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B
THEME: STEPS TO PERFECTION OR EVERLASTING WEALTH
BY: Fr Andrew Ekpenyong at St Mary Magdalene Cath. Church, Omaha, USA.
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY OCTOBER 10 2021
1. Material Wealth. Some people are so poor – all they have is money! This statement sometimes attributed to Bob Marley as well as Patrick Meagher, captures part of the priceless lessons in today’s Scripture readings. Material wealth is not enough. In the 1st reading (Wis 7:7-11), wisdom is valued above wealth a nd power. The inspired writer, who prayed and received wisdom, ended up both wise and wealthy: “Yet all good things together came to me in her company, and countless riches at her hands.” The Gospel reading (Mk 10:17-27, with parallels in Mt 19:16–23, and Lk 18:18–23) illustrates the danger of attachment to material wealth. Of course, honest wealth is a gift from God and our Lord encouraged such wealth to be used in His service (Matt 25:14-30). Even honest wealth brings with it the danger of attachment. In fact, the more we have, the more we desire to have, as the Latin adage says: amor habendi, habendum crescit: the love of having increases by having. The way out of such enslavement to having is detachment through generosity. Just like the 1st reading, detachment and generosity emanating from wisdom and love, lead to a hundred times more wealth (houses and lands) and connections (brothers, sisters, mothers, children) in this present age and “eternal life in the age to come.” In other words, everlasting wealth. In summary, detachment, generosity, following Christ with the cross, are the steps to perfection, to everlasting wealth. Everyone is called to perfection, not just the rich young man. In fact, the rich young man had already taken many steps to perfection, more steps to perfection than some of us. And yet….
2. Moral and Spiritual Wealth. The rich young man approached our Lord and asked: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Pope St John Paul II writes about this question: “It is an essential and unavoidable question for the life of every person, for it is about the moral good which must be done, and about eternal life.” (Encyclical, Veritatis splendor, VS, 1993, #8 ). Our Lord gave the first step to perfection: keep the commandments, stating many of them. The young man responded: “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” This was a great fellow. So our Lord gave him the next steps to perfection, yes, steps: “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. But things did not end in sadness for many others. Peter and the other disciples had abandoned everything and followed our Lord. These disciples made the sacrifice that the young man was unwilling to make. These disciples carried their crosses and followed our Lord, in spite of their imperfections. They got everlasting wealth and we celebrate them as St Peter, St James, St John, etc.
3. Everlasting Wealth. Who else is called to make this sacrifice, to take these steps to perfection? St John Paul II applies the teachings of Scripture: “This vocation to perfect love is not restricted to a small group of individuals. The invitation, “go, sell your possessions and give the money to the poor”, and the promise “you will have treasure in heaven”, are meant for everyone, because they bring out the full meaning of the commandment of love for neighbour just as the invitation which follows, “Come, follow me”, is the new, specific form of the commandment of love of God” (VS, #18). Wow. The disciples understood it, for John would later write: “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 John 3:17). Countless others through the ages have not only understood it but accepted God’s grace and taken these steps of detachment and generosity, to everlasting wealth. We know some of the more dramatic ones like St Francis of Assisi doing exactly what our Lord asked of the rich young man. It is still happening among us today. At age 29, Millard Fuller of Alabama, here in the US, became a self-made millionaire. He and his wife Linda became billionaires. Linda and Millard Fuller heard today’s Gospel reading, gave up their billions, founded Habitat for Humanity International, to help provide homes for the poor. Over 29 million people around the world have already benefited from homes provided through Habitat for Humanity. Linda, Millard, countless saints and many others, in spite of their imperfections, prove that with God all things are indeed possible, including everlasting life for the wealthy who are generous, everlasting wealth for the poor who are virtuous. To God be the glory who gives us grace to store up treasures in Heaven through detachment and generosity on earth. Amen.