MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on an irony that is not evident until you consider exactly what Jesus is asking a rich man to do. Why do we value? Do we really live the Commandments? Maybe we shouldn’t be so hard on the rich guy? Or, maybe our “richness” is revealed. Listen to this podcast of his reflection for the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Please read Mark 10:17-30. #GreatPreaching #GodFirst #RichMan #First Commandment
For MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 10/14/2012The 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Mark 10:17-30.
I know that this is hard to believe, but my children had a principal at their school when they were little who would say, “If you believe in Jesus you are going to get a million dollars!” Honestly, I was a pastor at a local church at the time and I thought to myself, how does this square with what Jesus says in this passage from Mark 10:17-30: “How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words.”
The problem is that we all somehow believe this. We think, “If I am a Christian, there ought not to be any pain in my life.” This is not true. We think, if I am a good Christian, I deserve or should have less friction, less sickness, less death, and less debt in my life. If you think about it, we, in the richest country in the world, have a horrible political mess and it is because we are fighting over our collective wealth as a nation. “How hard it is for a rich nation to enter the kingdom of God!” When I say this, I am sure that a storm of criticism will come down upon me.
Central to the understanding of this passage is an irony of the story of the Rich Man and Jesus that is recounted today. This man comes to Jesus and says, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Notice the language, “inherit.” It evokes the idea of riches or advantage left for someone due to birthright. Jesus says, basically, “Keep the commandments.” The young man, nonplussed says, “I have done so from my youth.” So, Jesus says, “Well, then, give away your wealth and give it to the poor.” Then the man turns away sad.
Ok, I have just reminded you of the story you read for yourself. What is the irony? The irony is that when the Rich Man, the one who is apparently favored by God because he is wealthy, when asked to keep the first Commandment, you shall have no other gods before me, he cannot do it. The one who has “kept the commandments from his youth” cannot leave behind his wealth and serve God alone. His affection, his attachment, his clinging is to a god of a lesser value, but of the most value here on earth by earthly people.
I am reminded of when a group of us led the fight against strip joints in Gary, IN. The owner of a strip club said, “Why do you come after me? I am a good person. I give over a hundred turkeys to the homeless at Thanksgiving.” Of course, my thought was, “Where do the homeless cook them?” But I just turned and walked away. In his justification of himself, in his high opinion of himself, all he could see was the good deed he had done. He didn’t count the fact that strippers are often started on drugs and alcohol addiction so that they will become strippers. Giving away of 100 turkeys at Thanksgiving does not justify the ruining of hundreds of lives so that you can make the money to buy the turkeys. Who is your god, here?
I love to be in a nice environment as much as anyone else. The artwork of our new Chapel, the beauty of the space, is all wonderful. But what is more important, that we have nice things to celebrate Mass or that the Mass is celebrated? It is no sin to have wealth; it is a sin to place that wealth above God.
The disciples are amazed because, besides the contrary message of Amos, Micah, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Hosea, and the rest of the prophets, the society in which Jesus lived believed that those who had wealth were favored by God. Because life is financially easy, then it becomes valuable?
My oldest son used to complain that I always gave him the hardest jobs to do. I used to say, “Because I trust you to get them done.” When God sent his Son to earth, he didn’t give him an easy life. God gave his Son the hardest punishment to live: rejection, abuse, and a life that ended in an unjust murder. We should know that God doesn’t give ease of life to those he wants to do great things. He gives the most difficult tasks, like a rich man abandoning the godlike quality of his wealth, abandonment the godlike quality of his easy life, to serve the poor and thus serve God.
What is there in your life that you value more than time with your loved ones? What is there in your life that you value more than going to Church and being with your true family, those who love God? What is there in your life that you value more than all the truly important ways we show others we love them? What do you value in your life that keeps you from serving God?
Whatever that small ‘g’ god is, identify it and begin to make a plan to root it out. The message from Jesus is that in order to keep all the Commandments, we must keep the First Commandment. That is only done when we value, treasure and desire God more than even wealth itself. This is what God is calling all of us to do today. Amen? Amen.
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