Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mk 10:17-30 or 10:17-27
October 10, 2021
October 4th is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. One of many amazing stories about him describes the almost casual way in which he walked away from inherited wealth.
During a Church proceeding in the town’s cathedral, Francis literally stripped off the clothes that he was wearing because they were purchased with his father’s money. He walked away, naked, to begin life as “The Joyful Beggar.” This extreme gesture demonstrated his total and complete rejection of material goods…and his unconditional trust in God’s mercy and love.
It appears that the man in today’s Gospel didn’t find it as easy to liquidate his assets as St. Francis did. It would be interesting to know if he was “self-made” or “a trust fund baby,” the reason being it seems less difficult to let go of things that we have not worked for.
Easy come…easy go.
Regardless of how it is obtained, accumulated wealth usually comes with the instinct to protect it. The so-called “Pandora Papers” disclosed this week make this point crystal clear. The rich and famous go to great lengths to secure their wealth. The idea of giving it all away, regardless of how generous someone might be, seems ridiculous. So, the response of the wealthy man seeking to “inherit eternal life” (interesting choice of words) was predictable.
This passage, however, is not about personal finances and wealth management. It is about personal salvation, and there are several “take-aways.”
First of all, accumulated wealth…whether inherited or earned…is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. If everyone was a beggar, no one would be “joyful” because there would be no one to beg from. But, of course, Christians are called to be mindful of the less privileged and to share. We are called to bring joy to the beggar…and to those who don’t ask, but need, as well.
Money and material goods become problematic when they become an obsession rather an enjoyment. (The folks whose names are on the Pandora list might just have a bigger problem than the tax laws they are trying to avoid.)
Next, it is interesting to note that Jesus’s reply is consistent with the instructions He gave to His disciples when sending them out to proclaim the Good News:
“Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic.”
His closest followers could not be encumbered with material goods or concerned about preserving their wealth. Their mission was far too critical. They were the stewards of the most valuable thing any human being could ever hope to possess…WISDOM!
The wisdom entrusted to them to share was the Good News that we are all children of God, and so, we are all “heirs” to The Kingdom so long as we are wise enough to accept what is bequeathed to us.
Think of it this way:
During the first part of our lives, a prudent person strives to do good and avoid evil…investing in Gospel living. Later in life, people of faith start to enjoy the fruit of their investment…that being the wisdom to release their grasp on worldly things…so that, unencumbered, they are able to grab hold of The Lord’s hand as Christ draws them into the Kingdom.
We all leave this world as naked as St. Francis left the Cathedral in Assisi. But those who have been wise enough to invest in charity and love can move forward into eternity as casually as Francis walked away from a life of riches and privilege.
There is no sin in enjoying the possessions with which we have been blessed. On the other hand, there is no wisdom in obsessing over them.