28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Book of Wisdom is the source of the first reading. This book came to be centuries ago as devout Jews, distant from their homeland and from their religious and cultural roots, attempted to confront the great pressure put upon them by the overwhelmingly pagan societies in which they lived.
Jewish parents worried about their children. It is easy to imagine Jewish youth of this time, rebellious and questioning as are adolescents in any time or place, finding the strict rules of their parents’ religion very binding. Whereas, the pagans, who lived all around them, followed quite different codes of behavior, and the pagans flourished.
This book is part of a series of books that together compose the Wisdom Literature of the Bible. These writings concentrate upon human reasoning wisdom. But, they insist, living according to God’s revelation through Moses and the prophets is showing true wisdom.
Often in these writings, as is the case in this selection, wisdom is mentioned as if wisdom were a person. It is a literary technique.
The reading this week maintains that true wisdom is a greater possession than the finest silver or gold.
As the second reading, the church this weekend offers us the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Profound Jewish theological themes run throughout this epistle. God is wise. He is the Creator. In God alone is order. To God therefore, all persons must render an account.
St. Mark’s Gospel provides the last reading. It is a familiar story. A man asks Jesus what is needed for salvation. Jesus tells him to obey the Commandments.
The man says that he observes the Commandments. Then, Jesus tells the man to sell his many possessions, give the proceeds to the poor, and follow the Lord. Sad, the man walks away from Jesus.
Jesus sees in the man a determined effort to find, and to be with, God. So, Jesus offered the man the key to salvation, calling this man to the most radical of obedience to God. The man should not just make contributions, as Jewish custom would have required of him since he was wealthy, but he should give everything in his possession to the poor.
As the story closes, Peter speaks. This is one of the 111 references to Peter in the Gospels. He speaks for the Twelve. He insists that he and he other apostles have put aside everything to follow the Lord. Jesus accepts this statement and blesses them.
The readings this weekend are fundamental, intense, wide-ranging and radical. The story of the rich man is crucial to the lesson of this weekend’s Liturgy of the Word. This rich man already obeys God’s Commandments. He wants to be with God.
Jesus calls him to absolute commitment. It is more than lip service. Indeed it is more than obeying the Commandments. It is the total imitation of Christ’s own sacrifice, an expression of total commitment to, and trust in, God.
The man cannot accept this blunt suggestion. He cannot forsake what he has of this world’s things. Sadly, he walks away.
In the first reading, true wisdom was seen as being in divine revelation, not in limited human judgment. All things of earth, including human judgment, are subject to flaw.
The story has wider application if the “rich young man” becomes the “rich man,” or “the man.” Discipleship is limited to no particular age. It is not limited to any class of people. It is an invitation to all and a decision for all.
The Gospel again reaffirms the place of Peter himself as spokesman for the community of apostles and also reaffirms the Twelve. As the rich man was asked, they had been asked to leave everything and follow Christ. They chose to follow the Lord.
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