FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time ( B )
Wisdom 7:7-11 | Psalm 90:12-13, 14-15, 16-17 | Hebrews 4:12-13 | Mark 10:17-27
God certainly speaks to us through the Scripture readings of the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Seek wisdom over riches, hear the word of God and respond to it wholeheartedly and treasure nothing else in your heart like Jesus.
His Eminence Paul-Émile Cardinal Léger served as the Archbishop of Montreal, Canada's largest Catholic diocese, for 17 years. He was elevated to the cardinalate in 1953 by Pope Pius XII. At the conclave that elected a successor to Pope Paul VI, Cardinal Leger's name was frequently mentioned as one of the possible candidates for the papacy. While he was considered one of the more influential prelates of the 20th century, he was also a man of deep conviction and humility. He was always preoccupied with what happened to others and finding ways to alleviate the misery of people. On November 9, 1967 gave up the trappings afforded a prince of the Roman Catholic Church. He resigned his office and leaving his red vestments, crosier, miter, and pallium in the archbishop's palace, disappeared. Years later, he was found living among lepers, handicapped and outcasts in a small African village. When a Canadian journalist asked him, "Why?" Here is what Cardinal Léger had to say, "It will be the great scandal of the history of our century that 500 million people are eating well and living luxuriously and every year millions of children are dying of hunger. I am too old to change all that. The only thing I can do which makes sense is to be present. I must simply be in the midst of them. So, just tell people in Canada that you met an old priest. I am a priest who is happy to be old and still a priest and among those who suffer. I am happy to be here and to take them into my heart."
King Solomon succeeded his father David on the throne and reigned over the tribes of Israel from 961-922 B.C. While he is not mentioned in the Book of Wisdom, his name, however, became attached to it in the title, Wisdom of Solomon, in the Greek version of the Old Testament. Besides this ancient title attributing the book to Solomon as author, in chapters 7-9 there is a prayer of a king who describes himself in terms reminiscent of a story in 1 Kings 3:5-12. Solomon had recently become king. In a genie-like way, the Lord appeared to him in a dream at night, and said to him, “Ask what I shall give you.” Solomon asked for wisdom to govern his people. In the prayer of a king in our first reading, we hear this: "I prayed, and the Spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepters and thrones, and I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with her.“ Solomon is presented here and elsewhere as the perfect example of a wise ruler. He deliberately avoids riches, gems, gold and silver, he did not seek health and comeliness and the throne. When Solomon might have asked for much more, he simply asks for what he needs to fulfill the mission entrusted to him by the Lord — wisdom. This pleased the Lord. The Lord was so pleased with Solomon’s humble request that, in addition to wisdom, he granted him more wealth and honor than any other king. Perhaps Solomon recognizes the limitations of his own human wisdom and the necessity for an even deeper wisdom available only from God. Thus before assuming leadership of God's people, he first sought God’s agenda by earnestly desiring to know the difference between good and evil. This way, his leadership will be based on God’s standards. We are already burning the candle at both ends on account of the Coronavirus pandemic. Our politicians' urge to save face at all costs has not only led to a worsening public health crisis but also to a surge in food insecurity and soaring unemployment. Look again at our First Reading today. What if our leaders had recognized the limitations of their own human wisdom and had sought God's wisdom instead? What if our leaders had set aside their self-serving agenda to pursue common good instead? What if our leaders had sought to discover God’s will in the course of action that they anticipate? Our story would have had an entirely different outcome. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Wisdom has to do with recognizing God as the creator and giver of life, being awed by his greatness, realizing that his ways are better than our ways and that he is more trustworthy than any earthly power or riches. With wisdom, we are able to see that all of these earthly things are meant for one end: our happiness with God in heaven. When we view them in this way, we see that the treasure of heavenly bliss is worth any sacrifice we are called to make. If we would be wise, let us begin here.
Jesus once said "He who lives by the sword, will die by the sword" He was a carpenter that died by being nailed to a piece of wood, so he might have had a point!
In our Second reading, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews lays stress on the power of God. He uses analogy of the sword to describe how God’s word can reveal and judge the person’s hidden motives and desires. Just as a sword can penetrate the human body, so also the word of God can separate different parts of the human being, exposing that which cannot otherwise be seen. All attempts to conceal one’s true intentions and thoughts from God are futile, because “everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him.” Jesus knows exactly what we struggle with, and He gives us countless opportunities in life to choose Him, to overcome our attachments, and surrender. It could be death in the family, a rough week, an unexpected expense that depletes our savings, or the loss of material goods. These moments are opportunities that Jesus allows in our lives for our sanctification. It is our job not to waste those moments. God’s Word calls us to be faithful to him with our obedience at the deepest level. It is the wisest choice for Christians to hear the word of God and respond to it wholeheartedly, lest one become lost in the deserts of life.
The body of musician Frédéric Chopin was buried in Paris where he made a career as composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era, but his heart was buried in his beloved Poland where he was born. Within a crystal urn inside a pillar at the Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw, the Poles kept the heart of this man who they loved and respected. If your heart were to be buried in the place you loved most during life, where would it be? In a space down at the office? In your house? In your car? In the bank? Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. Where is your heart?
Where is your heart? The rich man in the Gospel, who literally runs up and kneels before Jesus, shows a real desire for wisdom and attaining eternal life. He has lived his life faithful to the commandments, but Jesus aims for the rich man’s heart. He sees that the man is still attached to his treasure on earth. “You are lacking one thing. Drop every other ambition, free yourself from all ties, distribute what you have to the neediest and join us on the road." The man goes away sad — he has not learned to treasure heaven above what he possesses. Renunciation of wealth is a precondition for following Jesus. This particular man has to renounce what was an impediment for him in order to obey the command “Follow me.” Jesus' words are aimed for our hearts, as well. Where is your heart? What, then, are the “many possessions” that keep us from giving ourselves totally to him? What are we clinging to—material things, comfort zones, relationships? We settle for one bag of groceries in exchange of 6 years of poor governance. We believed in empty campaign promises and allow politicians to call God insulting names. We accept their propaganda at face value and let them lambast the crucified Christ, the Saints, the Scriptures and the Catholic Church. We threw our Christian values out the window and accepted jobs as online trolls for ₱30,000-₱70,000 a month to spread deliberate lies or misinformation. Is anything or anything worth more than your soul? Is anything more important than eternal life? Why then do we allow cheap, plastic, imitation satisfactions to rob us of our faith and the kingdom of heaven? Like the rich man in our Gospel, we too may approach the Lord with enthusiasm and walk away sorrowfully, for he sees our hearts and knows that while we basically follow the commandments there are things that keep us from following him with our whole hearts. My dear brothers and sisters, to put your hand in the Savior’s hand you must let go of the counterfeit treasures to which you have been clinging to. Come to Me. Come trust in Me. I’m treasure and I can satisfy your heart like no one else,” our Lord Jesus says. Let us pray for the wisdom to enter into the kingdom of God. <enrique.ofs>
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum