28th Sunday in ordinary time – Mark – 10:17-30
There were many things going right for the rich young man in the narrative today. He was rich, he was young (Matthew’s gospel tell us so) and he was a man! That last word may sound sexist but in Palestine, that’s what went in your favour. Women would not even find a mention. And yet while everything sounds right and the narration seems to begin with pomp and joy, it fizzles out ending in a sad departure.
The rich young ruler (Luke’s gospel) has all things working for him. The problem perhaps was the superficiality in his desire to seek the truth. He wanted some ‘cool advice’ from this new rabbi on the block. A rabbi, everyone seemed to be talking about. His address, ‘good master’ is a bit unprecedented in the Bible which indicates that this greeting was effusive and obsequious. Jesus spots the fake praise right away.
‘Get on with it’ would be Jesus’ modern day reply. The flattery was evident and Jesus wanted to cut to the chase. There seems to be a sense of arrogance in this young ruler who thought that he could buy his way to heaven. You see, the problem is not rich people per se; Jesus is condemning the arrogance behind a rich person who relies on his wealth only. ‘What must I DO’, is the young rulers question; almost suggesting that his wealth could buy him a place in heaven if not that he had the power. Jesus does not respond with a ‘to do list’ to go to heaven. Jesus simply sates what the young man ought to have done.
Interestingly the young man’s claim is that he has ‘kept all these ‘from his youth. The all these being, a section of the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) that Jesus mentions. But Jesus has not completed the list when he was interrupted by the young man’s boast. To his boastful claim of ‘keeping ALL these things, Jesus then adds the first and fundamental commandment. He does so in such an innocuous way that it leaves the young man shocked.
Jesus goes to the heart of the matter. The first commandment was that God alone is God and to love Him with all one’s heart and soul is the most fundamental of all the commandments. This young man had made money, his God. He worshiped his things more than his God and this was his ‘idol’ this was his sin.
Jesus’ command to sell everything and follow him was radical. For a Jew, wealth was a blessing from God and one who was blessed with wealth had an obligation to give alms to the poor. Jesus’ call to discipleship seemed to deprive this young man of his ‘God given blessing’ to wealth and the obligation to care for the poor.
Performance not Privilege – Wednesday, 28th Week in ordinary time – Romans 2:1-11
We know that St Paul did not found the Church in Rome. Hence in writing to them he is eager to complete his mission of preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles and where better to do it than in Rome, the heart of the Roman Empire. In this letter to the Romans Paul makes a great point, namely that the Gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (1:16). The whole purpose of the letter is to explain that all of us, both Jews and Gentiles, are guilty before God owing to sin, and that the only escape is through the free gift of God in the redemption wrought by Jesus Christ.
Chapter two begins with the word ‘therefore’. This word indicates that something is being concluded before something else is being communicated. In the last chapter Paul painted a picture of the deplorable condition of the Gentiles. Clearly in 1:20 he states that the Gentiles are “without excuse” for “though they knew God they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him but they became futile in their thinking. Therefore God gave them up in the lust of their hearts to impurity.” After his general indictment of the Gentiles, Paul shows that in spite of special revelations, the Jews enjoy no advantage in moral status before God over the Gentiles(Rom 3:1–8).
While writing his thoughts on the matter, St Paul also anticipated a whole class of people who would say “amen” to what he had said about the Gentiles in chapter two. Perhaps some of the Jewish Christians in Rome and even perhaps some of us in our homes today must be thinking, ‘how right Paul is; how terrible the world outside the Church has become, how deluded people are, perhaps even how deluded some of us used to be, before we followed Christ.’ But in saying this we also mean how righteous we are as compared to others. We wish to be set apart from the others because we believe that we are the moralist who have kept God’s word to the tee.
My dear parishioners,
As you are aware the government has now permitted the opening of Churches from the 7th of October 2021. This is a happy day for us as it is also the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary. There is a saying that I like very much; ‘where the mind goes the man follows.’ I do hope our minds are on the Lord in which case we will see ALL of you in Church in the days to come. The government advisory does not forbid those above the age of 65 and those below the age of 10 from attending mass; it discourages but does not forbid.