#Abandon is the blog for October 14, 2018. When we miss the first thing we ought to do because we are doing the tenth thing we ought to do, we might need to reconsider things. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Mark10 #Mark #Commandments #Eternal Life #Possessions #GracethenFaith
Abandon (Open Here to See Full Text of Message)
For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 10/14/2018 The 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Mark 10:17-31.
Would you live out your relationship with God if it were simply a gift from you to him? Or, is there simply an exchange going on here? A transaction? You are good and he gives you eternal life.
What is at the heart of all this is whether or not we are in a relationship with God or a business deal. The man who had many possessions comes to Jesus in a very eager way. Unlike the Pharisees in these weeks past who are always coming to test him, or unlike the disciples who are looking to decide who is the greatest and if Jesus is the guy who will satisfy their political messianic dreams, the young man in the reading from the Gospel of Mark for today runs to Jesus. When he arrives, he kneels before him. In this rather dramatic scene, the young man has an openness to the Lord that we do not find with either the Pharisees or the disciples.
In his eagerness, there is an assumption that makes the young man and Peter somewhat the same. I will get to Peter in a minute. He says, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Since when does “inheriting” involve doing anything?
A few years back, after my aunt that no one really liked died, the proceeds of my grandparents’ estate, which she had largely inherited was distributed to each grandchild. I did nothing, but live my life within the family. I can say that I did have an amazing relationship with my grandfather. His memory is what kept me connected. Yet, to inherit something does not necessarily require anything but for me to maintain my family relationships.
So, Mark tells us that Jesus “looked upon him and loved him” when he said that he had done all the commandments Jesus mentioned. If you know the Ten Commandments, Jesus asked him if he had kept the 5th through the 9th Commandments and then doubled back for the 4th. These are all the Commandments that have to do with us interacting with each other. We shouldn’t steal from each other, kill each other, do not bear false witness against each other, do not defraud one another(a new one, but I am thinking of it as a covetousness), and we should honor our fathers and mothers. The young man seemed pretty cocky. He says he has done all these things his entire life.
Then Jesus does something that is not so apparent: he asks the man to observe the first commandment: have no other gods but the Lord. How do we know? We know because Jesus asks him to get rid of the one thing that Jesus must know the man puts before his love of God. Jesus goes for the spiritual jugular and says, “Go, sell all your possessions and give the proceeds to the poor, then come, follow me.” To that, the man is dejected.
There are two things in Jesus’ response. The first is what we call “detachment”. We ought never have attachment to anything or person that we would choose that or them over our relationship with God. It is considered a spiritual discipline, but it is also the First Commandment of the Ten. So, the fact that the young man cannot let go of his stuff means that he may be keeping nine of the Commandments, but he isn’t keeping the first.
It sort of reminds me of the times I will go out to start my snow blower and I will pull and pull and pull on the rip cord and nothing happens. Then, I remember that the first thing I am supposed to do is turn the key so that the electrical system on the thing works. It is the FIRST thing I am supposed to do.
The second thing that Jesus tells him to do is to follow him. He is basically saying, in your new found poverty, depend upon God for your survival. We give a lot of lip service to this, but then we will shrug and say, “but there are bills to pay.” Peter’s response to this whole thing is informative to what this whole recounting of events is telling us.
After they are in private, Jesus says to them that it is hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom. The disciples were astounded because just like today, rich people were thought to have some kind of special position due to their success. Surely, they were inheriting the kingdom because they are apparently blessed. Yet, no, says Jesus. In fact, just like the man with possessions, they get in the way because accumulating and owning has a tendency to make us think we own everything, even our relationship with God.
In light of this, and in light of his previous misinterpretation of Jesus as a political messiah who would deliver them the goods, Peter, like the suck up student in grade school, says, “Lord, we have left everything to follow you.” Basically, he is claiming the inheritance because of what he has done. He is no different than the man with the possessions, but that Peter’s possession is that he has left everything to follow Christ.
As the monks who sat on large stumps in the desert praying all day, or sat in caves praying all day, or the people like the Teaching Assistant I had in seminary who literally sold all he had and gave it to the poor, sleeping on his floor on a mat, keeping only what he needed to survive, there is a deep, deep well of substance in getting to know the Father, through Jesus, as we pray in the Holy Spirit.
All of this gives new meaning to my mother’s long said axiom, “When in doubt, throw it out.” To which I add, “or give it away.”
So, what does this mean about inheriting eternal life? It means that eternal life is a pure gift. It is a gift from the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross. It is a gift that was a plan from the Father. It is a gift that we truly only understand if we allow ourselves to hear the Holy Spirit. We do not keep the Commandments in exchange for eternal life. We keep the Commandments because we are given the gift of eternal life.
I will give you this cherry red, metallic, 1965 Ford Mustang, in pristine condition, but you must maintain it. Oh? How do I do that? You change the oil every 3,000 miles. You rotate the tires regularly. Get the brake pads changed every 25,000 miles and the rotors turned every 50,000. “Sure! No problem! May I have the keys, please?”
Jesus says, “I will give you eternal life. You will live forever. It is my gift to you because you could never earn it—it required an eternal sacrifice for sins. The only person who could give that eternal sacrifice is a man who is also fully God. The only one like that is me. So, I give eternal life to you, but you must maintain it.” Oh, how do we do that, Lord? “Keep the Commandments: Love God first before all else and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Life itself, the fact we woke up the first time and every time, is a gift from the Lord. We did nothing for it. The inheritance for which the man with possessions asks is truly an inheritance. We get it because the Lord is good. It is based upon his work. It is not our prized accumulation of something we own: not a thing, a person, or an achievement. We live our life in thanksgiving for what we have been given and for what we will be given forevermore. In light of all that, let me ask you again: “Would you live out your relationship with God if it were simply a gift from you to him?” Detach. Be thankful. Live the gift. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2018.
There is no audio this week. Our sound engineer, Armand C., had an injury that is not life threatening, but put him out of commission at the last minute. Please pray for him, thank you.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian