28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – October 11, 2009 Scripture Readings First Wisdom 7:7-11 Second Hebrews 4:12-13 Gospel Mark

10:17-30 Prepared by: Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P. 1. Subject Matter
• • • •

Wisdom The Word of God The poverty required to follow Jesus The hundredfold

2. Exegetical Notes

“I pleaded and the spirit of wisdom came to me:” “This Wisdom does not belong to human nature nor is it the property of kings or rulers. Solomon has to ask for it to receive it.” (International Bible Commentary) “The Word of God is living and effective:” “Here the Word is described in a way calculated to bring out its efficacy: It is living, i.e., it produces life…. It is the Word that speaks to men, inviting them to belief and perseverance. It is a saving Word, but also one that judges, since it condemns those who refuse to hear it.” (JBC) “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth:” “In light of having comes to Jesus uncertain of his future, his response assumes that he lacks something. He lacks both eternal life and a proper understanding of what it means to keep the commandments.” (Robert H. Stein) 1954 Man participates in the wisdom and goodness of the Creator who gives him mastery over his acts and the ability to govern himself with a view to the true and the good. 1802 The Word of God is a light for our path. We must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. This is how moral conscience is formed. 131 "And such is the force and power of the Word of God that it can serve the Church as her support and vigor, and the children of the Church as strength for their faith, food for the soul,

3. References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

and a pure and lasting fount of spiritual life." Hence "access to Sacred Scripture ought to be open wide to the Christian faithful."

544 The kingdom belongs to the poor and lowly, which means those who have accepted it with humble hearts. Jesus is sent to "preach good news to the poor"; he declares them blessed, for "theirs is the kingdom of heaven." To them - the "little ones" the Father is pleased to reveal what remains hidden from the wise and the learned. Jesus shares the life of the poor, from the cradle to the cross; he experiences hunger, thirst and privation. Jesus identifies himself with the poor of every kind and makes active love toward them the condition for entering his kingdom. St. Thomas Aquinas (ST II-II. 45): “Augustine says that wisdom is the knowledge of divine things…. Aristotle says…it is for the wise man to consider the ultimate cause, and through it judge other causes with certainty, and accordingly to it set all things in order…. He who knows the cause that is simply the highest without qualification, namely God, is called wise without restriction, since he is able to judge and set in order all things by God’s rules…. The gift of wisdom judges things according to divine truth. Hence the gift of wisdom presupposes faith…. Wisdom implies a certain rightness in judging according to divine norms…. It belongs to wisdom first to contemplate the divine realities, and this is the vision of the source. Afterwards it directs human action according to the divine reasons. This guidance of human acts by wisdom does not bring bitterness nor toil; rather by wisdom the bitter becomes sweet and the toil a rest…. Wisdom…brings about a rightness in judgment concerning divine realities, or concerning other things in the light of divine standards, from a certain connaturality or union with divine things.” St. Ambrose: “The dread of divine power returns to the soul when we are eager to hide ourselves. Then, placed as we are by the thought of our sins in the midst of the trees of Paradise, where we committed sin, we are desirous of concealing ourselves and thinking hidden things which God does not demand of us. But God who is ‘the discerner of our thoughs and intentions of our hearts,’ ‘piercing to the division of soul and spirit,’ says, ‘Adam, where are you?” St. Ephrem the Syrian: “The Lord fled from that by which people favored him [the honorary title of being called ‘good’] so that he might show that he had received his goodness from the Father through nature and generation.” Origen: “The Son is not of some other ancillary ‘goodness’ but of that alone which is in the Father.” St. Augustine: “The rich young man went away sad carrying a great burden of possessiveness upon his shoulders.” St. Clement of Alexandria: “What is it that caused him to flee, to desert the Master, to separate himself from help, from hope and from his past good works? It is that “go, sell what you have.” And what does that mean? Not what some superficial interpretations make of it. Our Lord is not demanding that we discard our estate and get rid of our money. What he does ask is that we banish from our souls the primacy of riches, of unfettered greed and feverish desire for them, the thorns of this life, which suffocate the seed of true life. What, then, does the Lord command as something new, as something proper to God, as the only thing which gives life, and not something which earlier failed to save. What does he point

4. Patristic Commentary and Other Authorities

out? What pre-eminent thing does he teach, he who as the Son of God is the new creature? He does not command what the letter says and what others have already done. He is asking for something greater, more divine, more perfect than that which is stated—that we denude the soul itself of its disordered passions, that we pull out by the roots and fling away what is foreign to the spirit. Here, then, is the teaching proper to a believer, and the doctrine worthy of the Savior. Those, who before Christ’s coming despised material goods, certainly gave up their riches and lost them, but the passions of the soul increased even more. For having believed that they had done something superhuman, they came to indulge in pride, petulance, vainglory, despising others.”

St. Louis de Montfort: “Eternal Wisdom, ever transcendent in beauty, by nature loves everything that is good, especially the good that is man, and consequently nothing gives him more pleasure than to communicate himself. Note that this enlightened understanding given by Eternal Wisdom is not dry, barren, and un-spiritual, but radiating splendor, unction, vigor, and devotion. It moves and satisfies the heart at the same time as it enlightens the mind. Wisdom gives man not only light to know the truth but also a remarkable power to impart it to others. Wisdom has the voice to convey knowledge. Wisdom knows what we want to say and communicates to us the art of saying it well.” Pope John Paul II: “In the young man, whom Matthew’s Gospel does not name, we can recognize every person who, consciously or not, approaches Christ the Redeemer of man and questions him about morality. For the young man, the question is not so much about rules to be followed, but about the full meaning of life. This is in fact the aspiration at the heart of every human decision and action, the quiet searching and interior prompting which set freedom in motion. This question is ultimately an appeal to the absolute good which attracts us and beckons us; it is the echo of a call from God who is the origin and goal of man’s life. In order to make this ‘encounter’ with Christ possible, God willed his Church. Indeed, the Church wishes to serve this single end: that each person may be able to find Christ, in order that Christ may walk with each person the path of life. The question which the rich young man puts to Jesus of Nazareth is one which rises from the depths of his heart. It is an essential and unavoidable question for the life of every man, for it is about the moral good which must be done, and about eternal life. The young man senses that there is a connection between moral good and the fulfillment of his own destiny. He is a devout Israelite, raised as it were in the shadow of the Law of the Lord. If he asks Jesus this question, we can presume that it is not because he is ignorant of the answer contained in the Law. It is more likely that the attractiveness of the person of Jesus had prompted within him new questions about moral good. He feels the need to draw near to the One who had begun his preaching with this new and decisive proclamation: ‘The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel’ (Mk 1:15). People today need to turn to Christ once again in order to receive from him the answer to their questions about what is good and what is evil. Fr. Servais Pinckaers, O.P.: “In the past, the good and happiness formed a single concept expressed by a single word: goodness, bonum in Latin. Happiness was the diffusion of the good, like the reverse side of a single quality. Now, however, defined by its conformity to legal obligation, the good is understood as separated from happiness and even as opposed to it. The desire to be happy appears to endanger the purity of one’s intention and to threaten freedom because of the hold happiness continues to retain on the inner life of the human person. It seems as if the morally good person now experiences an almost instinctive fear of

happiness. How can we lessen this divide? How can we achieve a reconciliation between morality and happiness, both in thought and in experience? By offering us the model for another type of morality, the notion of freedom for excellence shows us the way to respond and offers us the promise of renewal. The key to renewal is to rediscover our spiritual nature in its spontaneous yearning for truth, goodness, and happiness, flowing from a single primal dynamism. We refer here to ‘nature’ in its original meaning, signifying ‘from birth.’ Yet this nature is spiritual, being the image of God’s own life. It is part of the very constitution of our personality, as a principle of universality. To renew freedom in its roots requires more of us than merely a discussion of ideas. It is only attainable through the experience of personal action that is true and good; through a humble and patient reflection on this action; as well as through the grace of a quiet light that one must learn to await. It is here, under this intimate flash where the good shines forth, that the desire for happiness is revealed in its best light. By excluding this desire from morality, we have deformed it and painted a false picture of it, because the desire for happiness is itself a spark of the divine image within us.”

Fr. André Louf, O.C.S.O.: “‘Follow me’: a person can only permanently attach himself to Jesus out of love. Such a proposal would have sounded very attractive in the young man’s ears had there not been the condition of divesting himself of all his possessions in order to follow Jesus as a poor person…. Although it was his ardent wish to follow Jesus, he decided to pass up this unique opportunity. Jesus grieved as well. He was deeply disappointed in his love and had once again to experience how far wealth separates people from God…. Regardless of who we are and what our spiritual experience is, we always lack something needed to follow Jesus closely. Or perhaps we always possess something superfluous which distances us from his intimate love. Usually we let that which his love seeks laboriously, little by little, to communicate to us slip away from us. When the time comes, however, he will teach us to be detached with an enormous gentleness which only his grace can filter into our heart. No earthly riches of any kind, after all, will permanently stand between Jesus and us, for with sweet insistence his gentleness will conquer the wealth of all people. And those who, like the apostles, have left all their possessions behind for his sake will be given them back a hundredfold. Before they managed to divest themselves of their riches out of love for Jesus, they also clung tightly to them and were, without knowing it, their slaves. The riches which come in their place, however, will be a pure gift from God, a new manifestation of his grace and a source of continual thanksgiving. And the more missed chances occur in our life, the more gloriously God’s mercy will manifest itself, and the more irresistibly Jesus’ gaze will rest upon the rich young man who is also hidden in each one of us.” Msgr. Luigi Giussani: “The obstacle is the attribution of the certainty to particular things we already possess: for example, money, friendships, the protection of elders, etc. What could hinder trust? Something we possess, in which we specifically place our trust. The foundation of poverty is in the certainty that God fulfills what he makes you desire. The poor are those who don’t place the hopes of their lives in determined things that they have chosen.” Msgr. Massimo Camisasca: “Poverty is born from the discovery that I am Another’s: I exist because I am loved in an individual way by Another. My being is from first to last totally relative to him…. If I am the work of Another, nothing is mine, because everything is given me by him…. Poverty cannot exist unless it is fed by hope, that is to say, by the certainty that we have been given what really counts in life and that no one can take it away from us…. Poverty [is] the use of things according to their true purpose…. To be poor is to use each thing according to its ultimate end, placing the expectation of one’s good, not in the

possession of this or that thing, but in the realization of the Kingdom of God…. When we live poverty, we discover that we are lacking nothing, since everything is given to us…. We human beings possess everything, but in a new way…. ‘Luminous’ poverty must awaken the ‘suspicion’ that a different humanity is possible…. Poverty is the recovery of the authenticity in our relationship with things, the authenticity in which God placed man at the dawn of creation and at the dawn of the new creation that is the Resurrection of Christ…. Nothing is more opposed to human stature to which Christ has called us than a narrow heart, than having a petty aim at the outset, than trying to secure oneself against life’s storm. The decisive step, in every education, then, is the enlargement of the measure of one’s own heart.”

Msgr. Luigi Giussani: “Whatever utopia man may have created, he has never even dreamed of the unity which Christ has created in us. If we acknowledge him, he acts, and our life becomes ‘more human.’ Christ makes our life ‘more human.’ This means you will live a hundred times better your love for your wife or husband, your father and mother, you will have a hundred times more passion for study, love of work, enjoyment of nature…. To acknowledge in a relationship that we belong to Christ means to abandon whatever in the relationship is our own project; it means giving up our belonging to ourselves for our belonging to Christ. He who does so already finds the hundredfold of what he has left…. The one who allows Christ to enter his life will know how to enjoy the stars a hundred times more.” Msgr. Massimo Camisasca: “Christ promised those who followed him with their whole being a ‘hundredfold.’ This promise can be fulfilled in our lives only if we can get to the point of accepting God as a mystery. This is the first and fundamental form of obedience. Unless we perceive the presence of the Mystery in our own lives, we have no chance of finding peace and of truly becoming who we really are. We have to take a further step and speak of ‘adherence’ to the Mystery: something extremely concrete. It means to adhere to the company, the human milieu, that he has created for us and in which he manifests himself as our Redeemer.” Fr. Julian Carron: “The more one follows a path in the presence of Christ, the more he sees the hundredfold in his life.”

5. Examples from the Saints and Other Exemplars

St. Francis of Assisi (Feast day: October 4): The son of a wealthy textile merchant, Francis at one point gave up his profligate lifestyle to embrace “Lady Poverty.” In a famous scene, he renounced his inheritance and stripped himself naked before his father in order to follow fully the will of God the Father. “Wisdom is a sharing in God’s ability to see and judge things as they really are. God reveals himself as God by his just judgments; as God, he sees things without disguise, as they really are, and deals with each according to his truth. Wisdom is a sharing in God’s way of seeing reality. But there are, obviously, certain preconditions to this knowing from God’s perspective. We cannot possess it unless we are united with God. This, in turn, means that this last and deepest mode of knowledge is not just an intellectual experience. In all that is essential, knowledge and life are inseparable. If something of the incorruptibility of God himself belongs

6. Quotations from Pope Benedict XVI

to this deepest kind of knowledge, then there belongs to it also that purity of the ‘I’ without which man is not incorruptible. From this, the meaning of the concepts ‘gifts of God’ and ‘sharing in God’s way of thinking’ also becomes clear. Only if we let ourselves be cleansed of the corruptibility of the ‘I’ and come thus gradually to live by God, to be united with God, do we come to a true inner freedom of judgment, to a fearless independence of thinking and deciding, that no longer cares about the approval or disapproval of others but clings only to truth. Such a purification is always a process of opening oneself and, at the same time, of receiving oneself. It cannot take place without the suffering of the vine that is pruned. But it makes possible the only form of power that leads, not to slavery, but to freedom. Incidentally, it is possible, from this perspective, to understand also why very simple persons are often so wise and able to judge so correctly in matters that are essential and why, on the other hand, there is often observable in intellectuals such an incredible blindness.”

“‘To follow’ means to entrust oneself to the Word of God, to rate it higher than the laws of money and bread and to live by it. In short, to follow means to believe, but to “believe” in the sense of making a radical decision between the two and, in the last analysis, the only two possibilities for human life: bread and the word. The human person does not live on bread alone but also and primarily on the word, the spirit, meaning. It is always this same radical decision that confronts disciples when they hear the call ‘Follow me!’ the radical decision to stake one’s life either on profit and gain or on truth and love; the radical decision to live for oneself or to surrender one’s self…Only in losing themselves can human beings find themselves. The real and radical martyrdom of genuine self-renunciation is and remains the basic condition for following Christ.” “When God speaks, he always asks for a response. His saving action demands human cooperation; his love must be reciprocated. The Word of God alone can profoundly change man's heart so it is important that individual believers and communities enter into ever increasing intimacy with his Word.” “He who allows Christ to enter his life loses nothing, absolutely nothing that makes his life free, beautiful and great. Christ takes away nothing and gives everything. Whoever gives himself to Him receives the hundredfold.”

7. Other Considerations

Some Fathers of the Church suggest that this is not the end of the story for the rich man. It is their opinion that he reappears in the Gospel as the otherwise enigmatic young man covered only in a linen cloth who follows Jesus into the garden of Gethsemane and who runs off naked when they try to seize him (Mk 14:51). The man’s scanty covering signifies that he has reconsidered Christ’s directive to sell all that he has. The man has made definite progress in his progress a disciple, following Jesus Christ in poverty all the way to the juncture of his arrest. The prospect of the Passion sends him fleeing off naked…but at that point he finally becomes completely poor. Mark’s resurrection story does not include an angel; rather, the one who speaks to the women at the tomb is a young man (dressed like Jesus Christ at the Transfiguration)—the rich young man at last enjoying the fruits of discipleship and serving as an evangelist of the Resurrection. (Fr. Steven Boguslawski, O.P., wrote on this in The Bible Today, July 1981, Vol. 19, No. 4, pp. 234-239.)

Recommended Resources Benedict XVI, Pope. Benedictus. Yonkers: Magnificat, 2006. Biblia Clerus: http://www.clerus.org/bibliaclerus/index_eng.html Cameron, Peter John. To Praise, To Bless, To Preach—Cycle B. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, 1998. Hahn, Scott: http://www.salvationhistory.com/library/scripture/churchandbible/homilyhelps/homilyhelps.cfm. Martin, Francis: http://www.hasnehmedia.com/homilies.shtml