In our first reading we hear King Solomon asking God for the gift of wisdom – a gift he would treasure more than gold or silver – a gift that would help him be a great and just king. What Solomon was really asking for was the gift, the ability to keep things in perspective, to have the right priorities in his life.
Twice this past week we heard the question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Last Monday it was in the gospel of Luke, today it is in the gospel of Mark. What must I do to inherit eternal life? This should be an important question for all of us. How can I live a Christ like life? How can I be the kind of person God wants me to be? How can I be the kind of person I want to be? Like Solomon we pray for the gift of wisdom, the gift to be able to keep things in perspective.
What must I do to inherit eternal life? In Luke’s gospel when the Pharisee asked Jesus this question Jesus answers by telling the story of the Good Samaritan – the stranger, the outsider who saw his brother in a wounded man, a man ignored by others. Without hesitation he bound up his wounds and took care of him. Jesus tells the Pharisee if you want to inherit eternal life, “go and do likewise.” Be there for those in need, share what you have with those who have less, whether you know them or not.
In today’s gospel we see a young man who has grown up in faithful observance of the law. Recognizing this young man’s goodness Jesus loves him and calls him beyond the customary requisites for holiness. Jesus invites him let go of his many possessions and entrust himself and his future to Jesus. As in the story of the Good Samaritan this good young man is asked to embrace the poor and the stranger by sharing his great wealth with them. Jesus challenged him to make a life-altering choice that would benefit him and so many others. What Jesus was saying to this good young man was, “don’t let your possessions control your life or your identity. See them for what they are; gifts to be shared, otherwise they will be a hindrance to deepening your relationship with God.” This was too much for the young man and he went away sad.
A number of years ago a man in the parish asked the pastor at the time, Fr. Ed Hennessey, a variation of today’s question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life? The pastor knew him well enough to know he was a good man, struggling to raise a family of four, struggling to lower his mortgage, but at the same time deeply involved in many good works. He was generous with his time and he could always be called upon to help people in need. So the pastor answered his question by saying “keep on doing what you’re doing.” Keep on being a loving husband and father, be there for your wife and children, and keep on being there for others. Continue to share your good fortune with others. Keep on doing what you’re doing.
What must we do to inherit eternal life? We can look into our own lives and see those times when we are asked to be there for others, when we are challenged to face on own insensitivy to the homeless in this city, our own indifference to the reality of the working poor in this city. On Tuesday the Star carried a section titled “Toronto’s Vital Statistics” It’s not an easy read. The gap between the haves and the have nots is widening in our city. Many of us are not aware and some do not care about these social issues.
What must we do to inherit eternal life? Pray for the gift of wisdom, the gift to be able to keep things in perspective, the gift to make us more sensitive to the needs of other, be they members of our own family or total strangers.
I believe the grace of God works from the feet up. No matter where we are, no matter what we may be doing, the possibility to grow in grace is in that space. We just have to be sensitive to what we are called to do and be in that particular situation. We just have to be willing, as was the Good Samaritan, to be there for whoever is in need. We need to be willing to divest ourselves our own busyness, our own demands on our time, our own preoccupation with our concerns and share our time and gifts with others.
As we continue to celebrate this Eucharist we can pray for ourselves and for each other for the courage to ask this important question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life” and may we have the courage to hear the answer as it comes to us in the ordinary living of our ordinary lives.