28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

By: Father Shawn Hughes

October 11, 2015.


Homilies are never the creative act of one person. So as we begin to post these homilies on our website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be nothing original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it. ‘Tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures.

God bless you,

Father Shawn

1st reading: Wisdom 7.7-11

2nd reading: Hebrews 4.12-13

Gospel: Mark 10.17-30

The gospel for this weekend is one of the really great stories of the New Testament. This gospel was very important to Pope John Paul II. For St. John Paul, the essence of the moral life can be discerned from this story. There are three major themes that he asked us to attend to in this gospel: First, there is a deep and abiding hunger in every one of us for eternal life. Now we have a lot of hungers for different things, we have hunger for success for money for pleasure…all these things are fine, but underneath all of these there is this abiding hunger which is the hunger for God, the hunger for the eternal; for some Good, some Truth, some Beauty that transcends the fleeting goods, truths and beauties of this world. There is something within our nature that points us to what is beyond our nature.

There is something really right about the rich young man as the gospel begins… something that is spiritually alive…and that is his genuine, deep desire to share in everlasting life. He runs up to Jesus. He’s rich. He has obtained many of the basic goods of human life…wealth, pleasure, power. He has it all in worldly terms. But he has discerned this deeper hunger. And so he comes up to Jesus and says: « What must I do to inherit eternal life? » That’s the question. The key question for each one of us. We have all asked this question…at some time or another: « What must I do to find union with God? »

One of the virtues of this young man is that he comes to the right place. He goes to Jesus, the very embodiment of the God he seeks… He has the desire for eternal life and he knows it will be satisfied with Jesus.

We live in a time when choice and freedom, our will…is highly prized… today’s culture says that life is all about finding your own path, finding your own way, satisfying your own longings. But this rich young man has one part right. He realizes it is not about his will, he seeks the good in Jesus. This is a virtue at the core of the gospel…a surrendering of our will to God’s will. We pray for it every time we pray the Our Father…thy will be done.

Notice how Jesus responds to this wonderful and spiritually alert question. He says: follow the commandments and you will find the path to salvation: Jesus mentions those commandments that deal specifically with our relationships with others: you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not covet …. Honour your father and mother…This brings us to the second point St. John Paul wants us to see. If you want to live in friendship with God and that’s what eternal life means…friendship with God …you’ve got the desire…that’s great…as the rich young man does…he’s come to the right place. If you want to live in friendship with God there are certain things that you just have to cut out of your life. Friendship with God means a life of radical love. To live in the household of God is to live a life of radical love. There are certain things in each of our lives that are repugnant to the paths of love. They have to be eliminated. Jesus says: Go back to the Commandments. You want to walk the path of love then you can’t kill people, you can’t be stealing from people…you can’t be committing adultery, you can’t covet peoples’ goods…you can’t dishonour your mother and father… these are the basic prohibitions if you’re interested in walking the path of life.

People today are very uneasy with religious laws and prohibitions…don’t you tell me what to do…don’t you lay a guilt trip on me…you and all your “shalt nots…”

But let’s make the comparison to physical health. Imagine now someone running up to a doctor and asking, what must I do to be physically healthy? We would say…that is a great question. You are interested in your physical help. That is great…you’ve gone to the right person, the doctor. What would the doctor say? Well I bet his opening move would be like Jesus. There are some things you are doing that are repugnant to having good health. Are you smoking? Are you sitting around all day and not exercising? Are you eating junk food? The doctor would say…Well you’ve got to cut those things out…So stop smoking…stop sitting around, stop eating fatty food. OK we accept this in the physical realm, we know to be healthy we have to cut these things out of our lives…then…why do we not accept it in the spiritual realm?

Jesus is saying the same thing…eliminate those things in your life that are very repugnant to living the spiritual life, Jesus is saying to the rich young man…and to us…there are certain things that you are doing, there are patterns in your life of pride, anger, of lust, that are repugnant to living a life of love. Jesus is saying…Cut them out. No one would object to the doctor and say you are laying a guilt trip on me. Or say “how dare you tell me what to do.” So this is what the church is doing …standing in the truth…In response to the young man’s question: « What must I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus’ reply begins with…Well, there are certain things that you should not do. They’ve got to go.

The rich young man takes this in and says: Teacher I have kept all of these commandments since my childhood. So Jesus looks at him with love, what a great detail, that’s what Jesus is he is the embodiment of divine love. That is what this young man wants. He wants the divine love. Jesus looks at him with love…with the discerning gaze that lays bare the human heart and says: all right, go and sell what you have and give it to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven and then come follow me.

Here is the third point Pope John Paul wants us to see. God is nothing but love. Therefore the life of friendship with him in the richest sense is the life of total love, of self-forgetting love, a love that is now adventurous in its expressiveness. The Rich young man has taken care of the basics. I don’t kill …I don’t commit adultery…I don’t steal, I don’t covet. All right…great. But, Jesus senses he is ready for more. He’s ready for serious spiritual stuff…This is why Jesus tells him to walk the path of radical love, sell everything you have, give it to the poor and follow me, …GIVE ALL YOUR LIFE OVER TO ME!!

It’s like someone who has gotten basically healthy: I’ve cut out smoking .I’ve cut out eating those fatty foods…I’ve started exercising but…doctor, now I want to be a marathon runner. The doctor would say this is what you have to do to be a marathon runner. You’ve got the basics down but now you want to run a marathon? Now we are talking serious physical health changes.

It’s the same thing in the spiritual life. Are we willing to give our whole life away? And now comes the sad part…We follow this path and we come to this decisive moment and then we hear…at these words the man’s face fell…he went away sad…

For he had many possessions. He’s just about to make the move into the spiritual big leagues. And he balks… he can’t do it. He has a negative reaction to what should be his greatest happiness, participation in the life of God. Even Jesus seems sad … he says how hard it is for some to hear the gospel and follow it. Imagine, this rich young man is capable of being sad in the very presence of God because for God’s sake he must renounce other goods …goods that are carnal, temporal, limited goods…merely apparent goods…but he can’t do it…He goes away sad…a sadness that comes when we are faced with spiritual good…but we just can’t do it…the rich young man actually experiences the good as evil … and he can’t do it… he goes away sad.