Sunday Sermon for October 11, 2015, the Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Readings: Wis 7:7-11; Heb 4:12-13, Mk 10:17-30
In the second reading St. Paul tells us that no creature is concealed from God, but that everything is naked and exposed to Him to Whom we must render an account. We know from the Gospels that our Lord, on several occasions, used money to be able to make a point. Recall that those who had been entrusted with the various talents or gold coins were required to give an accounting to their master upon his return. The unfaithful steward was required to give an account of his work to his master when he was caught in his shenanigans.
It is easy for us to understand the necessity of giving an accounting of our interactions with money. However, the fact that our Lord uses it to make a point does not imply that He wants us to make money a priority. In fact, He said that we cannot serve both God and Mammon. St. James tells us that the love of money is the root of all evil. So, while it has become a necessity due to the kind of society in which we live, we need to be very careful not to place too much emphasis on finances.
In a world that places a lot of importance on wealth, how are we supposed to remain aloof from it? We see the foundation of the answer to that question in the first reading today where we are told that wisdom was given to the one who prayed and that there was nothing that compared to her. The passage goes on to say that wisdom is preferable to scepter and throne; gold, in view of her, is but a little sand and silver is accounted as mire by comparison.
Clearly this is not a worldly wisdom that is being presented. Worldly wisdom places great importance on both power and riches, but neither of these is considered to be of any value when compared to this wisdom. So, the wisdom spoken of here is a divine wisdom. Because the Greek word for wisdom, Sophia, is a feminine noun, wisdom is personified as a woman. However, we have to recall that St. Paul tells the Corinthians that Jesus is the Wisdom of God.
If we have this divine wisdom, then we will see Heaven as our treasure and, according to our Lord’s words, that is where our heart will be also. This is precisely the issue placed before us in the Gospel reading today. We hear of the rich young man, who is clearly a moral individual, stating that he has followed the Commandments from his youth. However, he obviously recognizes that he is missing something because he comes to Jesus to ask what he must do to inherit eternal life.
According to Jewish norms, one could be justified by observance of the Law. This man was observing the Law very well, but he somehow realized that this was not enough. Jesus tells him that he is lacking one thing. He was to sell his possessions and follow the Lord. The man went away sad because of his great wealth and his many possessions which he was unwilling to give up. The man came to the crossroads of earthly wisdom and divine wisdom. He could choose between money and Jesus; sadly, he chose the riches of the world rather than those of Heaven.
Jesus goes on to teach His Apostles that it is extremely difficult for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The reason is because we are attached to our riches, whatever those may be. Divine wisdom teaches us, therefore, to pray for detachment from all earthly things. This does not mean that you have to get rid of everything (although the Lord may require this), but that we have to be willing to let everything go.
This is very difficult in a wealthy society like ours, but each of us has to ask the same question as the young man in the Gospel: which is more important to me, the things of this world or the things of Heaven? If it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the wealthy to enter into Heaven and that the latter will only be possible by God’s grace and power, we all need to take a hard and honest look at our lives and our priorities.
Think about it, we cannot take anything with us into Heaven; the only thing that goes with us is the merit we earn from our acts of virtue. We will all have to make an account before God from Whom we can hide nothing. Doesn’t it make sense to be detached from the things of this world and be rich in the things of Heaven? In this lies true wisdom.
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.