A REFLECTION OF THE HEART
28th Sunday In Ordinary Time (B)
Gospel Reflection by Rev. Fr. Allen Baclor Abadines
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up,
knelt down before him, and asked him,
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good?
No one is good but God alone.
You know the commandments: You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
you shall not defraud;
honor your father and your mother.”
He replied and said to him,
“Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,
“You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
At that statement, his face fell,
and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples,
“How hard it is for those who have wealth
to enter the kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words.
So Jesus again said to them in reply,
“Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves,
“Then who can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.
All things are possible for God.”
Peter began to say to him,
“We have given up everything and followed you.”
Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you,
there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters
or mother or father or children or lands
for my sake and for the sake of the gospel
who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age:
houses and brothers and sisters
and mothers and children and lands,
with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”
The Gospel of the Lord/ Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
We are told from the Gospel for this Sunday an encounter between our Lord Jesus and a someone who was referred to, as a very wealthy man. In this particular text, we see a man who enthusiastically approached Jesus to ask this question, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” In a close examination of the text, we see here the good intention of the man. It was a question on how to attain salvation. And Jesus in effect said to the man, “You know the commandments …observe them!” And the man replied, “Teacher, all these I have kept since my youth.” To which Jesus further said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Then the Gospel described to us the reaction of the man i.e. he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Jesus initially loved the man for the goodness in his heart. But he became sad because he failed in that one final test – to give up his possessions and to distribute them to the poor. To most of us, the test that Jesus gave the man may seem harsh. How could he give away everything he has in an instant to give them to the people who were not even members of his family nor related to him. Considering perhaps that the man labored hard all his life that he and his family may be assured of a comfortable life. It may seem unjust to be asked such a thing. But we should also consider what he was asking for. The man wants to be assured of salvation. Salvation is not a cheap thing. Salvation is a free gift from God, but it costs you your life! Yes, it is true that grace is free but it is certainly not cheap. It is going to cost a person everything. Attaining it, therefore, is like finding a pearl of great value…so you don’t wanna settle for less. God offers us the best and so we do not compromise for anything less. A perfect example was Judas Iscariot. If anyone had the promise of great wealth and blew it, it was Judas Iscariot. Great rewards await the apostles. In the Book of Revelation 21:14, it says that the names of the Twelve Apostles would be inscribed into the 12 foundations of heaven. Jesus also promised that they would sit on 12 thrones judging the nations of Israel. Judas had witnessed Jesus’ many miracles, had listened to his preaching, walked with him, ate with him, but still, somehow he failed to see the eternal riches that were placed before him. It was some kind of foolishness that Judas exchanged the glory of the Kingdom of God for a meager 30 pieces of silver. Sometimes people didn’t know what is of greater value and importance. The man in the Gospel was offered by our Lord Jesus something that is valuable. He was invited to come and follow him. It should have been a chance of a lifetime. But he let it go. He chose material and earthly wealth in place of something eternal.
There is actually nothing wrong with material possessions or being wealthy. In fact, we could use the money for a greater cause. Some of the world’s greatest people who did most of the welfare of humanity have been wealthy people. One should realize that we are but stewards here on earth. We actually own nothing, Our hold on things is only temporary. And one day, death will separate us from earthly goods. When we die, we will leave everything behind …our house, our jobs, our money, our friends and even our loved ones. Everything that is dearest to us. Everything that we consider our greatest treasure. Everything that we’ve given utmost importance, something that we value the most. Something that we even considered that which we cannot live without. In our journey to perfection, our Lord Jesus wants us to succeed. This is the reason why he was saddened upon seeing the man in the Gospel walked away for he had many possessions. In the end, the problem is not what we possessed, but what possesses us. Jesus wants us to inherit eternal life. His mission is to save us. Yet he said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God. Yes, it may be difficult but it is not impossible.
This reminds me of Dolores Hart. The name may sound familiar to you. Well, Dolores Hart was a prominent Hollywood actress. She made ten films in 5 years. Her first movie was with Elvis Presley in “Loving You” (1957). She became an established leading lady in1960. At the height of her showbiz career, she ‘stunned Hollywood’ by announcing that she would give up show business to become a nun. Dolores Hart starred in the film, Francis of Assisi in 1961. While doing the movie, she met Pope John XX11, who was instrumental in her vocation. When she introduced herself to the Pope, she said: “I am Dolores Hart, the actress playing Clare.” To which the Pontiff replied in Italian – “Tu sei Chiara!” (which means “No, you are Clare). Dolores Hart is a perfect example of a person who could possibly leave everything behind – wealth, fame, the glamour – in order to heed to a greater call i.e to follow Jesus. As a novice, Dolores Hart told her superior, “I will never have to worry again about being an actress because it was all over and behind me.” But the lady Abbess replied, “I am sorry, but you are completely wrong. Now you have to take up a role and really work at it.” The Abbess was like saying being a Christian is a serious business, one needs to work hard to achieve perfection.
The Gospel serves as a challenge and an invitation to us all. It is an invitation for us to let go of anything that hinders us from living in accordance with the Gospel values and for us to be able to give ourselves completely to God. If God could give himself totally to us in the Person of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, can we not give ourselves totally to God?