SR-2018-10-17

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
28th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – October 14, 2018


This Sunday’s Theme: Heart Felt Wisdom and Duty.

Both Reading 1 and the Gospel contrast heavenly versus earthly riches and wisdom. Reading 2 speaks of how God’s Word pierces our hearts, enabling us to distinguish truth from falsehood.

“Do people weigh you down? Don’t carry them on your shoulders. Take them into your heart.” (Archbishop Dom Helder Camara)


Reading 1 – Wisdom 7:7-11     Wisdom is preferred above gold and silver.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 90:12-17     The Lord fills us with love and joy.

Reading 2 – Hebrews 4:12-13     The Word of God exposes the heart.

Gospel – Mark 10:17-30     All that we have belongs to God, we are just its stewards.


 


Reading 1     Wisdom 7:7-11                                      (The Preference of Wisdom)

Context – The Wisdom of Solomon (aka. Wisdom) is one of seven Wisdom Books of the Bible (including: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs (Song of Solomon), Ecclesiastes, and Sirach).  It was written a century or two before Christ. Its main lesson is God rewarding those who are faithful to His law. “Wisdom” here means not merely the practical ability to succeed well in life, or even the art of behaving ethically, but spiritual vision, understanding of God and His activity in our lives and history. To strengthen the faith of his co-religionists, to console them in their afflictions, to raise their hearts above the sordidness and immorality by which they were surrounded – this was the main purpose of the writer of the Book of Wisdom. But he also had another purpose in view. Many Jews, anxious to gain the good will of the Egyptians, had faltered in their allegiance to Yahweh and gone over to the camp of the enemy. To these unfortunates the sacred writer addresses himself time and again, warning them of the impending judgment of God and conjuring them to return to the path of true Wisdom which alone leads to perfect happiness. The Christian finds in it the highest religious and moral lessons – lessons which are of paramount importance today, just as they were two thousand years ago.
Today’s Reading – The author, assumed to be Solomon, is depicted as a king who prays for wisdom. Presumably, it is the kind of wisdom that will enable him to be a fair and wise ruler. He proclaims that he prefers Wisdom to all material riches, to health, to beauty, to everything that women and men normally cherish. In comparison to Wisdom, all other riches are of little value.  By making Wisdom his first aim, all other earthly riches are also given to him.

I prayed, and prudence was given me [i]; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.
I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her, nor did I liken any priceless gem to her; because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand, and before her, silver is to be accounted mire. Beyond health and comeliness I loved her, and I chose to have her rather than the light, because the splendor of her never yields to sleep. Yet all good things together came to me in her company, and countless riches at her hands.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           Anyone who would assert that being rich and famous would provide genuine happiness, possesses not Wisdom but rather a morally defective attitude. Such an individual must not be trusted with anything of importance. Those, however, who find peace and contentment in the gifts provided by Wisdom, are the virtuous ones by whom we all profit by association. Wisdom brings peace; wealth tends to bring strife. Wisdom’s contentment fosters life and love, justice and dignity; wealth’s responsibilities easily overwhelm those with too little talent, and easily produce the idolatry of greed and power, too often raising blandness and mediocrity to illusory heights of respect. (The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild)

 


Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 90:12-17                                 (Filled with God’s Love)

Today’s Psalm – This Psalm is a collection of petitions from a community in great distress. The phrase “that we may gain wisdom of heart” connects this Psalm to this week’s readings.

R. – Fill us with Your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!
Teach us to number our days aright
[ii], that we may gain wisdom of heart. Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on Your servants!
R. – Fill us with Your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!
Fill us at daybreak with Your kindness, that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days. Make us glad, for the days when You afflicted us, for the years when we saw evil.
R. – Fill us with Your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!
Let Your work be seen by Your servants and Your glory by their children; and may the gracious care of the LORD our God be ours; prosper the work of our hands for us! Prosper the work of our hands!
R. – Fill us with Your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Some biblical scholars speculate this psalm was written shortly after the Babylonian exile. This psalm states that life was a burden caused by God’s anger. This condemnation was the result of the people’s deliberate sin and transgressions (Just like today’s polarization and scandal – in our Church and Government.) However, hope overtook despair in the end. With faithfulness and prayer, God could change His mind; better days were ahead. The author implored the Lord to teach the faithful about the nature of human life so they could gain wisdom. He begged the Lord to relent so that the experience of a limited life could be joy-filled and productive; this experience could balance times of trouble. Most important, the psalmist asked God to be active in the life of the community, to show His mighty deeds to the present and future generations just as He had in the past. This would give life purpose again, for His favor would be on the people and their activity. (word-sunday.com)


Reading 2     Hebrews 4:12-13                      (God’s Living Word)

Context – Hebrews was addressed to Jewish Christians who were undergoing persecution for their new beliefs. The overall theme is the all-sufficient greatness of Christ. Of all the NT Writings, none reflects more deeply on the Priesthood of Jesus Christ – the high priest of Heaven, and none gives more attention or puts more emphasis on covenant theology – the superior excellence of the New Covenant – the saving mission of Jesus Christ, over the Old Covenant – the Ten Commandments.
Today’s Reading – God’s Word (i.e. Jesus) is likened to a “sharp, two-edged sword” that can reach into the most secret recesses of our heart, unmasking what is there. This two-edged sword encounters us (reveals our true beliefs and motivations) and comforts us (rewards our righteousness).

Brothers and sisters: Indeed the word of God (i.e. Jesus) is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword [iii], penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature is concealed from Him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must render an account.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          “reflections and thoughts of the heart” The Bible has 13 passages where the message is that the Lord either searches or already knows our true beliefs, desires and/or feelings in our “heart”. To the Jews the heart was interpreted as the place within them where decisions were made, a place of intelligence. Therefore, that’s what God used in referring to the New Covenant that He would “write it on their hearts” as opposed to the old covenant that was written on stone tablets. Thus the “heart” of Christianity is to be obedient to God our Father through His Son Jesus.


Gospel     Mark 10:17-30                               (All We Have Belongs to God)

Context – St. Mark’s Gospel was the first written of the Gospels contained in the New Testament. The date of writing was prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. St. Peter was Mark’s primary source of information about the life of Jesus. Mark is primarily known by his Roman name “Mark” but is sometimes called by his Jewish name “John” in other New Testament Writings. He was a cousin to Barnabas and an associate of St. Paul. Recognizing Jesus as the divine Son of God is the goal of this gospel. And it was written to encourage Christians who were suffering persecution for their faith. It begins with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.

Today’s Reading – A rich young man is asking Jesus: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” His concern raises an important theological question: Can one gain eternal life on his/her own, or is it a gift from God? It seems the young man thinks he can gain eternal life by performing good actions in addition to keeping the commandments. The fact that the young man is a keeper of the commandments shows that he is indeed a good man. But then Jesus pulls out His “two-edged sword” and penetrates into the heart of the man. Jesus invites him to let go of passing wealth so that he can acquire everlasting wealth. His attachment to his material wealth has become an obstacle to a deeper relationship with God.  His riches are his real god and security.

The verses which begin with “how hard it is for a rich man” would have blown Jesus’ audience away, given that the contemporary belief is that wealth is a sign of God’s favor. Here Jesus is taking the traditional teaching about wealth and standing it on its head. The reference to “a camel passing through the eye of a needle” is a hyperbole stressing the great danger of riches and how attachment to them can be a great threat to our salvation. Material wealth is not an obstacle to salvation if one knows that he/she cannot buy his/her way to heaven and if one generously shares his/her material riches with the poor. With God, all things are possible.  It is even possible, if not likely, that one can look upon wealth as always inferior to his/her relationship with God, and use wealth to bless others.


As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before Him [iv], and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.” [v] He replied and said to Him,
“Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him
[vi] and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow Me.” At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” [vii] The disciples were amazed at His words. [viii] So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible [ix], but not for God. All things are possible for God.” Peter began to say to Him, “We have given up everything and followed You.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for My sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          That the rich man “went away sad” is not the end of the story for him, only for the written text. We, however, are allowed to wonder and imagine how the Grace of his encounter with Jesus might have had a long-range effect upon him. His question was the question of a thoughtful believer. We can imagine that he continued in his ordinary thoughtfulness and might well eventually have appreciated the insight provided by Jesus. Indeed, he received precisely that for which he had asked: Wisdom. Perhaps the seed of Wisdom which Jesus planted sprouted and bore fruit later in the man’s life. (The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild)

Catechism 2052 – “Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?” To the young man who asked this question, Jesus answers first by invoking the necessity to recognize God as the “One there is who is good,” as the supreme Good and the source of all good. Then Jesus tells him: “If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” And he cites for his questioner the precepts that concern love of neighbor: “You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.” Finally, Jesus sums up these commandments positively: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”



[i]   Reading 1 Footnotes:
I prayed, and prudence was given me.”  = Prudence (i.e. wisdom) is understanding. Solomon preferred wisdom over power, riches, health, charm, and agility. Solomon prayed for wisdom and it came to him along with all these good things.
[ii]   Responsorial Psalm Footnotes:
Teach us to number our days aright” = Help us to always be aware that our time here on earth is limited and we must always do the best we can with the time we have left – use our time wisely.
[iii]   Reading 2 Footnotes:
two-edged sword” = A two-edged sword cuts no matter which way you swing it. Here we are talking about its power in respect to judgment, and the fact that you can’t escape it.
[iv]   Gospel Footnotes:
“knelt down before Him” = This gesture is an acknowledgement that the man knew Jesus was a Teacher of the spiritual life. How he knew this we do not know.
[v]   Jesus questions the rich man if he were keeping the Commandments = Because the happiness of a future life was promised if the Ten Commandments were kept, hence the reason our Lord inquired, whether he had kept the commandments.
[vi]   ‘Jesus loved him” = Christ loved him for his past behavior which includes his strict observance of the old law. (St. Chrysostom)
[vii]   “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God” = In themselves material things are good; they are resources God has made available to people for their development for society’s needs. But, excessive attachment to things is what makes them an occasion to sin. The sin lies in “trusting” in them, as if they will solve all life’s problems, and turning one’s back on God. St. Paul calls covetousness, idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Christ excludes from the kingdom of heaven anyone who becomes so attached to riches that his life is geared around them. Or, more accurately, that person excludes himself from heaven.
[viii]   “The disciples were amazed at His words” = They are astonished. From childhood they have been taught that riches are a reward and Jesus has just told them that they can become an impediment.
[ix]   “For human beings it is impossible” = We are incapable of achieving salvation on our own. Because of Original Sin, we suffer from a wounded nature and require the grace of God’s salvation for us to achieve righteousness and acceptance into heaven.