Wisdom 7:7-11; Hebrews 4:12-13; Mark 10:17-30

Turning Over Stones

Here are some stones I have overturned to see what ideas are underneath. I hope you can grab hold of something, pull -- and discover that it has some homiletic roots.

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, 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. He replied and said to him, Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth. Jesus, looking at him, loved him 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! The disciples were amazed at his words. 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, 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.

If this Gospel reading was from the Matthew, the addressing of Jesus as Teacher would have been a clear tip off that the title was being used in an empty and deceptive way. In the gospel of Matthew the title of Teacher is always used by the Pharisees and Scribes to address Jesus in a public place where the crowds can observe what the plotters hope to be the ultimate -- painting into a corner. For example, in Jn 8 we see the woman caught in the act of adultery used as a pawn to entrap Jesus, in Mk 11 we see Jesus answering a question with a question when his authority is questioned, and in the Gospel of Matthew we see Jesus providing an answer to the question regarding whether it is lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?

But in the reading today we hear a sincere question being asked. Perhaps it was the posture of the man who knelt before Jesus that made this sincerity clear, or perhaps Jesus was able to look into his heart; regardless, we read in this Gospel that Jesus loved this man.

The rich man in the Gospel today strikes me as a fairly prototypical figure that you may see gathered in front of you this Sunday. What I mean here is that most of the faithful are probably doing fairly well with the commandments.

Many or most of the individuals sitting in the pews are not killers, adulterers, thieves, chronic liars, sinister schemers of fraud, or parent abusers. Rather, they are observing the commandments with faithfulness.

Perhaps there are many people in your congregation who might be able to say to Jesus -- Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth

Nevertheless, like the young, rich man, Jesus can most likely address each one of us with the words -- You are lacking one thing. That is, we all have something in our lives that serves as a major obstacle to happiness and peace. We may not be riches; but nevertheless, it is something. Recognizing this obstacle and addressing it head-on is what needs to be done this Sunday.

We can all picture ourselves kneeling before Jesus and hearing his voice -- You are lacking one thing. What is it? It may not have to rid ourselves of riches -- but maybe of anger, grudges, alcohol, drugs, lust, apathy. Or perhaps the commandments, indeed, have been transgressed and a lie or series of lies need to be faced, perhaps unfaithfulness, being unloving, a theft, or a fraud needs to be faced and addressed.

We seem to always have that one thing in our life that serves as an obstacle to holiness -- to purity. The obstacles may seem insurmountable; yet we learn today that anything is possible with God. Let us invite God into our lives and into our efforts to face that one thing. We have the decision to make whether to go away sad or happy. Let us choose happiness. Let us choose to face our one thing with courage.

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