Homily for October 14, 2012

28 th Sunday Ordinary Time  Cycle B  October 14, 2012
Wisdom 7:7-11  Hebrews 4:12-13  Mark 10:17-30

There was just one person sadder than the young rich man. And that was Jesus.

Jesus’ short monologue on how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of heaven, where a just and lasting reward is granted, was a monologue of intense sadness. It had to be. Because Jesus got duped by the young rich man.
The young man runs up to Jesus just as Jesus and the rest of his crew are about to set out on a journey. (The journey, of course, that ends up in Jerusalem). The impressionable young man stops Jesus in his tracks, somewhat giving off the impression he was building up the courage and fortitude to kneel before the Lord and ask him the question on the topic of eternal life. And what it takes to get there. He asks Jesus the question that was undoubtedly burning inside of him – for that’s what Jesus does to hearts who hear his voice – just as I’m sure we all have questions for God burning with intense curiosity inside each of us. Jesus gives him the answer; “Keep the commandments of the law which you know by heart. Don’t pretend like you don’t know what they are.”
So Jesus discovers that the rich young man has done so. He has kept all the commandments. He hasn’t killed, or committed adultery, or stolen anything, or lied about a fellow brother or sister, or defrauded anyone, and has honored his father and mother. I want this guy to be my son-in-law! A clean record. No flies on this guy. And because Jesus couldn’t find any bugs on this impressionable young man, he comes to love him. Well, Jesus loved him anyway, just as he loves us anyway, for he created the young man, as he has created us. And what a Creator creates, and sees it as good, the Creator loves. But Jesus really loved this good person because he was a true child of Israel who kept God’s law. So strong was Jesus’ love for this child of Israel that he actually takes the step of inviting the young man to follow him. He wants him to be his disciple.
So, Jesus reverts back to the calling mode, not that he ever left it. The call is constant. He called Peter and Andrew, James and John, telling them to drop their nets and follow him. And they do. Matthew leaves his tax collector post, at Jesus’ behest, and tags along. The same result with the rest of them. But not this guy. Jesus got duped. His hopes were raised. He thought he found a true child of Israel. But then came the final, life-altering form of Christian discipleship; sell all you have, give it to the poor, and follow the Savior of the world. Jesus got duped!
He thought he had the young man. He thought he had him corralled in the barn of God’s kingdom. Jesus had this guy pegged for great things, including being a witness to the resurrection and establishing Christian Churches, and dying a martyr’s death, spilling his blood for the sake of the Gospel. Jesus loved this man. Jesus got duped. The young man who knelt before the Lord as the Lord was leaving on a journey where the young man may never see Jesus again, saddened the Savior of the world. Why? Because, with God, there’s always something else. There’s always some other work to be accomplished in the name of Christ. There’s never a final bow to discipleship, or a curtain to be dropped on faith, or the fat lady singing good night to our good works, until we take our last breath.
God is very demanding. God is very demanding because the reward for responding to His demands is no small pickins’. God is very demanding to us because the Lord of all is constantly seeking to draw the best out of us. You may be retired in the eyes of this world today or one day in the future. But we are never retired in the eyes of heaven until we breathe our last breath.
If you can’t tell by now, I love this Gospel. I love it because it’s so wonderfully demanding. I love it because, on our own, our faith would too many times sit on a roller coaster that has been turned off. Jesus hits the on button to make us active. Our faith in action wouldn’t move very much without the prodding and loving demands of God.
Last Sunday I was relaxing for just a short time in the afternoon before catching up with some friends to head out to Wright’s Chicken Farm. (Obviously I’m not a vegetarian). So I was relaxing on the couch for a few moments when the doorbell rang. I said a few words under my breath, but got up to answer. And it was a guy who needed to talk about the fact that he got arrested the previous week for doing something illegal. Let’s just say he wasn’t keeping the commandments. And I was thinking about it shortly after, thinking that as I was coming to answer the door, I was a little ruffled and a little hot under the collar for being disturbed. Then, after my conversation with the door-ringer, it hit me that God demands from us at certain times to sell off our riches. In this situation the selling off took on the form of a short rest. Thanks be to God, at least in this situation, Jesus didn’t get duped.
Keeping all the commandments is fundamentally important to an honorable Christian life. But God always wants more at those unexpected times. And He wants more while granting us the grace to deliver more. And if we don’t deliver more, at those times when God comes knocking on our doors, then we may be duping Jesus, who loves us unconditionally.
We have it always within our capacity to make Jesus sad. That’s quite a thought! But we’re created to go the extra mile of faith through love. The extra mile of selling off certain comforts so that we may inherit eternal life.