Sunday Sermon for October 10, 2021, the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Readings: Wis 7:7-11; Heb 4:12-13; Mk 10:17-30
In the Gospel reading today we hear about a young man who came to our Lord asking what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Our Lord tells him he needs to follow the commandments. When the young man answers that he has followed the commandments from his youth, our Lord looks upon him with love. In so doing, Jesus calls the young man to a greater holiness and invites the man to follow Him.
There was only one catch to following our Lord: the young man had to give up everything. Because of his material possessions, the man went away sad. Think about this: the man had the opportunity to be a disciple, possibly even an apostle of our Lord, but his possessions were more important to him than Jesus.
Clearly, this young man was a very good and virtuous man who lived the commandments and desired eternal life. We can assume from the context of what was spoken by our Lord that this man would be able to go to Heaven. However, as a reward for his goodness, Jesus was giving the young man a chance to achieve great holiness. The man chose basic holiness and goodness over profound holiness and true greatness.
I suspect we all know people who have a huge potential, but due to choices they made, that potential was never realized. Now we must look at ourselves. I do not think anyone would be reading this if he or she was not generally a good person. However, like the young man in the Gospel, God may be calling us to something even greater. Perhaps He is calling us to union with Him, spiritual perfection, and heroic holiness.
The problem in a materialistic society like ours is that money and material possessions mean more to us than the Lord. We would be very quick to object to this, but then I challenge each of us to decide today to follow the Lord, regardless of what He might ask. He may want some people to be wealthy so they can help others. He may ask us to walk away from everything to follow Him. Of course, if you are married, He is not going to ask you to join a monastery, but as we see in the Gospel, the Apostles, some of whom were married men, had to leave everything to follow Jesus. This does not mean they divorced and left their families, but that the cost of their discipleship was immense and they had to be willing to shoulder the burden.
If you find yourself waffling at all right now, please consider the first reading that tells us Wisdom is to be preferred over everything. Compared to Wisdom, silver is accounted mire and gold is nothing but a little sand. The writer of the Book of Wisdom tells us we need to choose Wisdom rather than light. St. Paul tells us Jesus is the Wisdom of God.
If we truly choose our Lord, that is, if we choose to enter into a real and deep relationship with Him, if we choose to love Him, if we choose to seek Him first and above all else, then He is gong to work in our lives to conform us to Himself. Not only is He the Wisdom of God, but He is the Word of God that is “living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” Nothing is concealed from Him, so we must be serious about our choice and we must pursue it wholeheartedly.
As it was with the young man in the Gospel, if we are doing well and living good lives, He will call us to something deeper. However, like the young man in the Gospel, we have a free will and we can reject the Lord’s invitation. He will never force us to do anything, so we can even begin on this path to spiritual perfection, then abandon that path and go back to basic goodness. That choice is ours.
God is all in all. That means, as the author of the Book of Wisdom learned, “all good things together came to me in her company.” If we are holding on to anything, no matter how small, we cannot possess everything by possessing the Lord. But if we give up everything to follow Him, we will receive a hundredfold as He promised. In truth, we receive far more than a hundredfold because we receive Him Who is all. So, with your whole heart seek Him Who seeks you with His whole heart. In leaving behind a few finite belongings, you will receive Him Who is infinite love and goodness Itself—and eternal life!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.