28th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Year B.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Go, Sell All That You Have….”.
In our lives we are required to make many choices. Many are the things that attract us, and we cannot have them all. To choose some means that we have to renounce others. The readings of today are on this theme of ‘choices’.
The first passage mentions the choice of Solomon. He preferred wisdom to the goods of this world.
The second reading tells us that the word of God is like a double-edged sword that penetrates deeply and uncovers all that is hidden in the human heart and soul. This is the word that forces one to take radical decisions.
The Gospel tells the story of the rich young man; Jesus asks him to make a very committed and important choice: either follow him, giving up all his riches, or keep his goods and lose him.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
There is an ancient story told about a man called Aladdin who possessed a magic lamp: he used to place it in front of him, rub it, express a wish, and this would be immediately fulfilled. Imagine you were holding such a lamp and that you are allowed to ask for one thing, but only one. What would you ask for? Perhaps it would be riches, the disappearance of all diseases, the end of wars, or the good fortune of meeting and marrying a beautiful partner.
The first reading of today is a reflection of Solomon’s choice. He was very wise: he preferred the wisdom of God to any other gift. All treasures and even health are nothing compared to the wisdom of God. Such temporary and material possessions are like mud or sand (7-10); swept away by the winds of time. Is it true that in order to have wisdom we must give up all the beautiful things in life? All too often, we get wisdom mixed up with knowledge, and fool ourselves into thinking that an Ivy League education is in order. We know that people with degrees can have lives as unsuccessful and unhappy as anyone else, so knowing a lot obviously is not the answer.
To the writers of the Hebrew Wisdom tradition, wisdom means more than being schooled in human learning. The spirit of wisdom is a gift from God, bestowed through prayer. It is guidance into the ways of God that will lead to a splendour that human wealth cannot provide.
All good things come to the one who keeps company with wisdom. And without wisdom, all riches are folly. Wisdom is not only compatible with the joys and satisfactions of life, but it is the source of all of them. We must constantly choose between the wisdom of God and that of humans and the world. A wise person is one who learns to give things their ‘proper importance and value’, who chooses things according to the plan of God, loses nothing and gains all: he and she finds happiness.
God is the source of all wisdom. It is God who has created the world with all its blessings, God whose providence leads every creature toward the end that he has destined for it. One could say that wisdom is the mind of God which human beings have been invited to know and share, not because they have earned it, but simply because God is loving and generous.
In the Christian tradition, Jesus is later identified as the ‘Wisdom of God’. With his Gospel in our hearts, we are wealthier than kings, more powerful than death. The light of Christ is brighter than a thousand suns, and enables us to look into the human heart with a clear sight.
To go back to our story at the beginning: wisdom is truly an ‘Aladdin’s Lamp’. But people are not easily convinced of this; they do not trust it and prefer other goods, something more tangible that they can understand. Could this be the reason why many are still so unhappy?
The Psalm is a meditation on the shortness of life, possibly by someone doomed to an early death. The prayer is for wisdom, which brings with it love and joy, qualities that Paul would later describe as the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22).
The second reading of today tells us that the word of God has five characteristics. It is ‘alive and active’. Once it leaves the mouth of the Lord, it produces its effect because of the life and the power of God. The prophet Isaiah compares it to the rain that never falls uselessly and does not return to the sky without watering the soil and making it yield fruit (Is. 55:10-11).
The word of God is also said to be ‘incisive and penetrating’ like a very sharp sword to penetrate the most intimate part of the soul of the listener. It is not like a feather caressing the ear.
It is also like a ‘judge’ that passes judgement on our very emotions and thoughts, and on all our actions. God our Father cares, the word that does not disturb our peace, that does not question our habits, and that does not transform our communities, cannot be the word of God: it is only useless chatter.
The new life that Jesus brings us through his ministry is usually called in the Gospel of Mark, the ‘Kingdom of God’. Only in the Gospel of today does Jesus speak of ‘eternal life’.
The story of the rich young man is two stories, really: the dialogue between the earnest young man and Jesus, and the ensuing conversation between Jesus and his disciples. The desire of the young man who approaches Jesus is to participate in this new life. Something about Jesus has attracted him and makes him thirst for more.
The young man has many material possessions. But what gives a person true happiness is not so much earthly possessions but the state of the heart. Up to now, the young man has always been in control of his life and people because of his wealth and possessions. He probably was never tempted to steal and found it easy to keep the Commandments. But as he approaches Jesus he senses that he has to do something more. Something is missing in his life.
In order to become a disciple of Jesus the young man has to allow Jesus to take control of his life. Jesus looks at the young man who is probably kneeling in front of him and he loves him. He sees all the efforts he has made to keep God’s commandments, but he sees also his potential for growth and the possibility to exploit his talents more fully. Jesus challenges the young man where he had least expected it, in his attachment to his wealth. Like many Jews of his time, he had thought that his wealth was a sign of blessing from God. Jesus’ challenge to the young man is two-fold: first, he is to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor. The second challenge is Jesus’ invitation to come and follow him.
The young man in today’s Gospel reading is attracted by the ‘Wisdom of God’ but lacks the courage and ultimate self-denial necessary to possess it entirely. The Jews considered that wisdom was a gift of God, greatly to be prized, eagerly to be sought. It was something to be possessed, to become the driving force of one’s life. The Gospels identify Jesus as the Wisdom of God – the Word of God made flesh. With his Gospels in our hearts, we are truly wealthier than kings, more powerful than death. The Light of Christ is better than a thousand suns, and enables us to look into the human heart with clear sight.
The story is the only time in the Gospel when someone refused to follow Jesus. The young man leaves sadly because no doubt he was impressed by Jesus but felt unable to obey his request to sell all and follow him. The reaction of the disciples who were astonished by his remark that it was hard for all those with riches to enter God’s kingdom is perhaps because Jesus’ teaching went against current Jewish belief that wealth was a sign of God’s favour.
In the ‘Promised Land’ there was to be no poverty among the people (Dt. 15:4). A just man like Job was blessed with wealth and at the end of his sufferings was restored to his riches (Jb. 1:3-5; 42:10). Poverty for the sake of poverty serves no purpose. But Jesus asks of us the kind of poverty and detachment that allows us to do good to others and to let Jesus take control of our lives.
The ‘camel passing through the eye of a needle’ is such an exaggerated image. Everybody knows it is impossible. But this exaggeration contains a deep general truth. It is difficult, not to say impossible for a rich person who is attached to his wealth to be a real disciple of Jesus and enter his new way of life. It becomes possible only by God’s grace.
The disciples at first see this test as too difficult. If this is the standard, who can be saved? Peter perceives the parallel between the admonition to the rich man and the way of the disciples: “What you ask of him is what we ourselves have done!” Jesus promises Peter that one who has surrendered the old life in favour of the Gospel will be rewarded a hundredfold. Discipleship however has its price, and many of us are like the rich young man who finds it just a bit higher than what we expected to pay. Sadly many of us walk away still with our riches but all the more poorer.
Thus we discover true wisdom in God’s own Son. If we accept Jesus, the whole world is ours. If we refuse and reject him, we end up with nothing.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. … Solomon chose ‘wisdom’ because he correctly reasoned that every person needs divine help and guidance in the ways of God. Let us pray today for the gift of ‘wisdom’ from God.
Mon. … How many times have we reflected back in our lives and asked ourselves whether we had made the right choices? When we allow ourselves to make decisions affecting our lives based on ‘worldly values and wisdom’ and not according to God’s plan, we will invariably get it wrong. Before making any life-changing decision we need to pray and ask the Father for his guidance.
Tues. … Let us learn to give things their proper importance and value and not base it on what we prefer or desire. Let us start by putting God first in our lives and choose all things according to his plan and not our whims and fancies. We will soon discover that our lives will become more organized with all our priorities falling into the proper order.
Wed. … The author of Hebrews tells us that the word of God has five characteristics: it is alive and active; it is inclusive and penetrating; it is like a judge. God’s word is the truth and applies to all the challenges that life brings to us today. It may not suit our life-style and it will require changes in our life. It will bring guidance and new-life to those who want it, but loss of salvation to those who neglect or oppose it.
Thurs. … Educating ourselves with God’s wisdom is a sure way of removing ignorance and the lack of spiritual understanding. Jesus’ disciples were slow to understand their Master’s teachings. How effective is our understanding of God’s word? The Church offers us the means for a greater understanding; we need just to make the effort.
Frid. … Many of us like to think that we are in control of our lives. We have possessions and authority that we have earned which we believe gives us our true status and rightful place in our community. Like the rich young man, we too will experience restlessness inside us. We will become conscious of our real incompleteness and begin to realize there is more meaning to life than what we have thus far experienced. This uneasiness is our desire for a ‘new life’, which only Jesus can lead us to, but is the price too high?
Sat. … New life awaits us all. But will we allow Jesus to take control of our lives? He will ask us to make certain choices and changes in our life-style and to make certain sacrifices on things that now control or have a negative impact on our spirituality. How difficult is it for those who have ‘riches’ to enter the kingdom of God? All things are possible through prayer and God’s grace.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, help us to always put You first in our lives and to always make Your will the foundation on which we base our lives. Grant us Your gift of ‘wisdom’, which is the source of all joy and happiness. We pray that by our actions we may bring hope to all those who are suffering from the consequences of the wrong choices that they have made and may they understand that in this life it is never too late to rectify those choices.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.