THE ONE THING THAT WE LACK

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Reflection 28thSunday OT. Year B

Wis 7: -11; Ps 89; He 4: 12-13; Mk 10: 17-30

At the heart of the 28th Sunday Ordinary Time year B, there is a question addressed to Jesus by a person whom Matthew calls only ‘the young man’ (Mt 19: 22). For Mark (and Luke), he seems to have been an older man who asks how to inherit life. He wanted to get not any kind of life, but life forever, life to the full, eternal life (Mk 10:17). The man we encounter in the Gospel was surely a real religious man. He may be called today a ‘good church goer’. In fact, without any doubt he said that he has kept all the precepts of God (Mk 10: 20).

It is already a miracle for any Christian to claim that he can observe entirely the commandments of God! But our man did… Now what was lacking to the man in order to inherit eternal life? Let us remember that he was a rich man,  well-off. On earth, he lacks nothing. Still he was longing for something more. This ‘ more’ lacking is what Jesus is going to reveal to him. The only one thing he lacked was: to follow Jesus, to be his disciple. Indeed, according to the Gospel, following Jesus is the key to eternal life. However, following Jesus is much more demanding. Because it requires to be detached from everything on which we rely and to be attached to Jesus, our sole wealth. The man of the Gospel is described as a rich man. Surely he had money and accordingly power. He found his security in wealth. Now Jesus is showing him another way of being happy apart from money and power. He is asked to give up his wealth and give it to the poor. And then to follow Jesus. But giving up his possessions proves to be too difficult for the man. Like many of us, he prefers to live his faith while remaining attached to too many things which have nothing to do with the will of God. Every time we profess the faith in God, although we refuse to put God’s will into practice, we are like this rich man, ready to observe the commandments of God according to our way and not according to the way of the Gospel. The consequence of such a Christian life is sadness! Having to face the demands of Jesus, the face of the man fell and he went away sad, for he had may possessions (Mk 10:22). Possessions, wealth, money…may be an obstacle to entering the kingdom of God. But it is true that being rich is not a sin. As being poor is not a guarantee of inheriting the kingdom of heaven. There are many poor people on earth whose hearts have been destroyed by envy and have become wicked! Rich or poor, the requirements of the Gospel are the same: To attach ourselves to Jesus. If not, we all finish our life in sadness. However, we are invited to take seriously the words of the Gospel: ‘How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God’ (Mk 10: 23)! These words are worthy of attention more today than ever. Especially in our context where we see some people who, though very rich, continue to accumulate wealth at any cost by means of corruption, robbery and many other dirty ways! Big houses, new cars, new mobile phones, new shoes…all new…those material things seem today the way to eternal life, the way to full human happiness! The reality is that we never get in life enough material goods to be happy with. Let us remember that being Christian is not an anti-virus against the thirst for material possessions. To accumulate is a real temptation for all of us. To defeat this temptation, should we not repeat every day the prayer of the Psalm: ‘Fill us Lord with your love we shall exult and rejoice all our day? Give us joy to balance our affliction for the years when we knew misfortune’? (Ps 89: 13). Against the temptation of possessing at any cost, Pope Francis also suggests that Christian should learn to be happy with few things. Few are enough…he said! Indeed, God our good Creator knows that we need the necessary for our life. It is what we ask for in the prayer to our father: the daily bread (Mt 6: 11). More than this, we need a decent house, good health, peaceful family…For those who have truly followed Jesus, he assures them a hundred times over (Mk 10: 30). Once we are true disciples of Jesus, we lack nothing else. Therefore, to attach ourselves to Jesus, is the only thing we lack in order to inherit eternal life. The good news is that we are not left alone on the way to eternal life. Jesus has already given his life for us on the Cross. He continues to offer himself to us in the holy Eucharist. He bestows his mercy on us in the sacrament of penance. He gives us freely his words every time in the Gospel. We encounter him in our poor brothers and sisters. In them we see his face (Mt 25: 40). In the end, we lack nothing. If we lack anything, it is because, we prefer to be like the rich man of the Gospel. He followed his way and refused the offer of Christ. May the Lord help us to follow him according to the demands of the Gospel. Fr. Louis Bira