In the Information Brochure we give out to new parishioners, there is the story of the rabbi who responded to a group of young people who had been badmouthing their religious upbringing – claiming they had been dragged to church and brainwashed.
For the rabbi religion involved three things – belonging, believing and becoming. Belonging in the sense that a person knows they are welcome in a community and that they have a sense of personal ownership, responsibility and commitment to the well being of all the people in the community of faith. Believing in the sense that supported by the faith example of others in the community they grow in their own personal relationship with God. Becoming, in the sense that a person seeks to grow to a full maturity in Christ and is willing to take ownership and responsibility for the adult decisions in their lives.
The rabbi felt that most religions fail people when they deny them the opportunity to grow.
One of the teachings we can take from today’s demanding gospel is that Jesus offered this good young man the opportunity to grow. This enthusiastic, faithful young man has kept all the commandments from his youth – he was truly observant of the law, faithful to the rituals, kept the fasts and feasts. Here’s a good young person who thought he had it all together.
Mark tells us that Jesus looked at him, loved him and in that love offered him more – a challenge, chance to grow. Un-clutter your life. “Go sell what you have, give it to the poor and follow me, and I’ll show a way to live and love you could never have imagined.”
We have no idea what this young man expected of Jesus but he was stunned by what Jesus said – sell what you have, give to the poor – break out of your observant comfort zone – overcome your smugness at keeping the laws – Get beyond keeping familiar rules and rote obligations – let go of these security blankets – take a chance, a leap of faith and cast your lot with me.
What a shock, what a crazy idea. No way, he was not a gambling man – he wasn’t about to let go of his security, the certainties of his life – he had too much going for him.
Then we hear those tragic words – he went away sad, because he had many possessions – possessions that basically possess him.
He may have been wealthy but he wasn’t wise – wise in the sense of having a living sense of what things are and what they are not. He was wealthy but not wise in the sense of knowing what things in life really matter.
The rest of the words of Jesus are not against money and people who have money. No matter what we have the fact is – people and their needs come before the satisfaction we have over owning many things. We are our brothers and sisters keepers – whatever you do to one of these the least of my brothers and sisters you do to me. In the novel Angela’s Ashes no matter how little poor families had for themselves they always managed to find something to share with those who had less.
It’s providential that we hear this gospel this weekend – Sunday marks the 14th United Nations International Day for the Eradication of Poverty – Seventeen years ago the House of Commons unanimously resolved to elimate poverty among Canadian children by the year 2000. Great rhetoric – the reality is one in six Canadian children live in poverty – the reality is 770,000 Canadians rely on food banks, 40 percent of them are children.
The developed countries are 10% of the world population yet we consume 80% of the world’s resources – a city such as ours should not have people living and sleeping on the streets.
Like the astounded disciples we too ask, who can be saved? The answer is the same for the rich and the poor – those whose love for God and for their fellow human beings expresses itself in an eagerness to do good for others.
As we continue our Mass we can pray for ourselves and for each other that we take the time to pray for ‘understanding’ and that wisdom be given to each of us, a wisdom that keeps us in touch with reality – a wisdom that keeps us aware of what really matters, what thing are really important, a wisdom that makes us always willing to do good for others.