Homily  28th Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael U. UdoekpoReading: Wis 7:7-11; Ps 90:12-17 Heb 4:12-13 and Mark10:17-30
Unwise to follow Christ with Excess Luggage!
Many of us are world travelers through several post-9/11 airports. We arrive at these airports with suit cases of personal, family, church and company’s items and carry-ons to board our airlines. With the 9/11 boarding rules at these entries are stricter. Overweight and excess luggage are frequently pulled by the side. When this happens it slows the passenger down besides the inconveniences that come with having to step by the side at the airport to rearrange excess luggage. In the light of today’s Readings, our journey to God, our relationship with Christ, the Word of God, the Eternal Wisdom of the 1st reading (Wis 7:7-11)- requires holiness of life, prudence, detachment from excess materialism, love and care for the poor, and can be compared to the life of a frequent flier. Carrying excess luggage of material goods to a post-9/11 airport is not wise.
The Gospel reading of today (Mark 10:17-30) presents our Lord as a traveler on a journey to whom a wealthy man who had many possession ran up [prostrecho]. This Greek verb, prostrecho, an aorist participle, of course, carries the force of persistence! Versions of this story are also persistently presented in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels. Luke 18:18-30 identifies him not only as a rich young man, but as an official, which means someone who probably besides material possessions had enormous power and political connections as many people do today!
These types of people are goal getters. They don’t give up! They want to have everything. We are told in the gospel he was not walking, but running up to Jesus. He is use to running, competing, getting what he wants. This time, scripture says, running up to Jesus, he genuflected, regardless of his wealth and acknowledged Christ as Good Teacher, before asking what he must do to inherit the kingdom of God. He has the earthly and material kingdom. He wants the Kingdom of God as well!
However, this is the type of question that each of us as Christians must be spiritually and constantly asking ourselves today. What must I do to be a good Catholic today? What must I do to be in good relationship with my neighbor? What must I do to reconcile with my family, wife, friend, and spouse? What must I do to keep my marriage? What must I do to be a good father? What must I do to be a good mother? What must I do to be a good leader, pastor, professor, and student, religious and priest etc? Or as Pope Francis would constantly challenge us today- what must I do to be of help to the poor and the marginalized? What must I do to love as Christ has first loved us!
In the case of this rich man, and based on our experience of last Sunday when the Pharisees hypocritically questioned Jesus about the divorce, one would ordinarily pause to ponder on the gesturing motives of this wealthy man. Was he for real? Was he sincere or was he flattering Jesus! Or was he thinking that with his money the kingdom of God was for sales? But, the good news here is that, this rich young man as noted in our 2nd reading, the Letter to the Hebrews 4:12-13, was dealing the Divine, with Christ, the Word of God who sees, through, who penetrates between souls and hearts, joints and marrows, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of human hearts. With God everything is possible!
He reminded him of the Torah, “you know the commandments” which he claimed to have perfectly kept. He never killed someone. He never committed adultery nor stolen someone’s property, and he has never bore false witness. In fact, from his youth he claimed within the limits of his wisdom that he has never defrauded anybody nor dishonored his parents.
Truly, Jesus, the true Wisdom who sees through the hearts of human person saw through his weaknesses- which included inordinate use of wealth, attachment to materials goods. This was his excess luggage. The rich man realized this when Jesus said to him, “go sell all that you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in the kingdom of heaven, then come follow.” Hearing this, we are told the rich young man imprudently walked away the opposite direction, unwisely and sorrowfully.
We know we all have our own excess luggage in form of greediness, selfishness, and domineering attitude, lack of contentment, arrogance, abuse of power, corruption in public offices, bad habits, war mongering, indifference to the plight of the poor and the planet, to name but a few. The question then remains, are we going to persistently listen to the Word of God, cut down on our excesses- then come follow Christ, the true Wisdom, or are we going to walk unwisely and sorrowfully away like the man in today's gospel who had many possessions?