THE RICH MAN
(A biblical reflection on the 28th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME [Year B] – 10 October 2021)
Gospel Reading: Mark 10:17-30
First Reading: Wisdom 7:7-11; Psalms: Psalm 90:12-17; Second Reading: Hebrews 4:12-13
The Scripture Text
And as He was setting out on His journey, a man ran up and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to Him, “Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth.” And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.
And Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the Kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the Kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to Him, “Lo, we have left everything and followed You.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for My sake and for the Gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.”(Mark 10:17-30 RSV)
There is one thing we have all experienced – being bound by the things we carry. At times, our possessions come to possess us. We feel restricted by them. We have not “travelled light,” and now we are finding out how hard it is to get home. It is indeed a common sight at airports or railway stations. In the airport’s luggage claim are we can see a man having a very hard time carrying all of his suitcases out of the area. In the end, carrying too much only impedes our progress and frustrates the realization of our goals.
In our Gospel reading of today, we encounter the sad story of the man “who had too much.” He was a good and respectable person. He had observed all of the rules and regulations. No doubt he had obtained his wealth by honest, hard work. He probably thought that the rules of business could also be applied to gaining everlasting life. However, Jesus indicates that there is still one more thing required: “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Mark 10:21). How did the rich man respond? In this regard, Mark put a short note: “At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:22).
It is important to note that Jesus loved the rich man and called him to follow the radical way of poverty. The giving up of earthly treasures means that one comes to receive heavenly treasures. It is not enough to see what one has and give to the poor. One must then follow Jesus. To simply give up one’s possessions but not follow Jesus is to be materially and spiritually poor.
Finally, we should note that Jesus does call the rich to enter the Kingdom. He says, however, that it is hard. For material possessions weigh us down and blind us to the treasures that moth cannot consume, rust cannot destroy, or thief cannot break in and steal. Earthly treasures seem so immediate and lasting. Heavenly treasures have a ring of “pie in the sky when we die.” A true spirit of wisdom is needed for us to know the things that really matter.
The letter to the Hebrews brings our reflections into sharp focus: “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Today God’s word challenges us to travel light and accept the treasures of heaven provided by God’s loving grace. Like the rich man whom Jesus loved, we must decide what will fill us up. We can go away sad because too much of the world is our hearts. Or we can empty ourselves so that God can fill us up with the richness of His peace and love. What will it be?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, through Your Holy Spirit, remind me always that I must travel light and accept the treasures of heaven by Your loving grace. Amen.
Jakarta, 9 October 2021
A Christian Pilgrim