Parables like that of the prodigal or lost son find a way to capture the…
Opening the Word: Give it up
“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” (Mk 10:24-25).
Our Lord Jesus Christ preaches a saving word this day. Once upon a time, he spoke to the rich young man. The one who was on his way to the kingdom of God. He did not kill. He did not steal. He did not lie or murder. He observed the Law, happily so.
|October 10 – Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time|
Ps 90:12-13, 14-15, 16-17
Jesus loved this young man who is not a hostile interlocutor, coming to challenge Our Lord. And when Jesus loves someone, he gives them the hard truth. He turns to the young man and tells him that he needs to do one more thing: give up all his wealth. Sell everything. Give the proceeds to the poor. And then follow Jesus. Be a citizen of the kingdom of God.
Jesus’ words are too hard for the young man. He can’t do it. He has too many possessions; he loves them too much.
Not a few preachers try to mitigate Jesus’ words. It’s true that Our Lord is primarily concerned that the young man follows him. Giving up wealth will make that beloved young man disposable to the kingdom of God, capable of following Jesus on the highways and byways of Israel. He will have nothing to worry about except Jesus.
Preachers often tell us here that each of us has something to give up if we are to follow Jesus. For some of us, it’s our concern about self-image. For some, it’s the grudge against our neighbor.
Not so fast, preacher, says Jesus. Take me at my word. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than the rich to inherit the kingdom of God.
The disciples get the drift. It’s impossible. Camels don’t pass through needles. No matter how the camel tries, no matter our ingenuity, a camel can’t fit through an eye of a needle. Impossible.
And it’s that impossibility, for Our Lord, that opens a new possibility. The thing about wealth and riches is that little is impossible for those who have these riches. Trapped in a city during a pandemic. Buy a nice condo on the edge of town, where you can get out and about. Stranded in an airport after a flight delay. No need to wait for the airport to find a hotel for you 60 miles away. Go get your own.
Wealth is the opposite of dependence. If we fallen men and women are to enter the kingdom of God, to receive salvation, we must become entirely dependent.
The wealthy must recognize that salvation is not a matter of tit-for-tat. It is an occasion of gratuity. God gives not because one or the other is more worthy. God operates in the strangest of economies, a world of gift where the saving mercy of divine love is prodigally bestowed.
The rich have a hard time with this because the rich operate not out of an economy of gift. But an economy of tit-for-tat. You can buy anything, can’t you?
Not the love of God, Jesus savingly proclaims. So, sell all that you can, he tells us. Operate according to God’s economy, giving everything that you can to those who have nothing. And if you do, you might, at last, begin to understand what it means to be a citizen of the kingdom of God.
Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing with joy (Ps 90:14).
Timothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D., is the director of education at the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame.