Faith, Fellowship and Fun

Mark 10:17-30 pdf version here
Mark 10:17   As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Mark 10:23   Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
Mark 10:28   Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.
The demands of discipleship and the need to deny oneself in order to become servant or a slave have already been mentioned in this part of Mark’s gospel. Now in this story we are presented with a drama that puts flesh on that teaching.
A rich man approaches Jesus to ask what he must do to inherit eternal life. He is given the basic answer which requires that he keep the commandments. However, as a practising Jew this is something he would already have known and clearly he is aware that something is still lacking in his life. Jesus senses his hunger and puts a radical challenge to him. He must rid himself of the attachment to wealth, wherein likes his security and social status and trust himself completely to God by following Jesus.
The man becomes sad and the onlookers are shocked as Jesus states that wealth is an obstacle to the true reception of the kingdom. For them wealth was considered a sign of divine favour but Jesus insists it is a barrier and this is because the ideal of love - the driving force of the kingdom - goes beyond the keeping of the commandments and demands that we empty ourselves of our attachments in order to become the servant of others. This is not just for the chosen few but part and parcel of the Christian vocation.
Clearly we are not all asked to become St. Francis of Assisi but we should be careful not to skip over this passage as though it were not intended for us. The challenge of detachment is one for every follower of Jesus.

SEAN GOAN - Let the Reader Understand
INITIAL OBSERVATIONS
The three scenes here are joined by the themes of wealth and poverty. The opening story of the rich man is itself a threefold warning. At a first level, it is a warning against the hindrance of riches. At the same time, this “failed vocation story” is the only example of a potential disciple who comes on his own initiative and not at Jesus’ behest. Thirdly, it shows Jesus putting his finger unerringly on the gap between aspiration and reality in this person’s life. This penetrating discernment helps the man see that he is not really as “gospel greedy” as his words profess. The subsequent scenes then take up the issue of wealth in general (the rich) and in particular (the disciples).
OLD TESTAMENT BACKGROUND
The Ten Commandments lie in part behind this text (see Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21).
On the topic of wealth, the Old Testament shows ambivalence. On the one hand, wealth and wellbeing are signs of God’s blessing and a reward for fidelity (Ps 24:1; Isa. 45:14; 60:5, etc.). On the other hand, wealth leads to greed, treachery and oppression (2 Sam. 12:1-14; Isa. 10:3; Jer. 5:27; 17:3; Ezek. 7:11; Hos. 12:8; Mic. 6:12). There is a gradual crescendo of critique against wealth in the Hebrew Bible, mainly on the grounds that the few wealthy have become rich at the expense of the many poor.
Thought for the day
We all have our own “emotional programmes for happiness.” These are are part of who we are from a very young age, structured around what was happening then in our lives. To continue in these attitudes well beyond the need for them is the common human experience. At the same time, the call to be fully alive entails some kind of conversion, some kind of letting go. Commonly, something triggers this growth and we become aware of hitherto unrecognised blocks. We may even have the help of someone like Jesus to put his/her finger on the hidden hesitations.

KIERAN O’MAHONY OSA—www.tarsus.ie


POINTERS FOR PRAYER

  1. We often get satisfaction from the things we own, clothes, cars, homes, gadgets, or money. There would be something unnatural if we did not. But what happens to us when our possessions begin to ‘own’ us, when they take a hold us, when we become obsessed with them? Jesus seeks followers who have the freedom to let go of possessions in order to be a servant of others. In whom have you seen this freedom? When have you experienced it yourself?
  2. Growth implies change. That change sometimes means letting go of something we have at this moment: job, status, home, security, or something else we value. There can be an apparent loss in letting go. Yet have you ever found that you gained by having the freedom to let go of something to which you had previously clung?
  3. The disciples thought that Jesus was making impossible demands of people following him. He acknowledged that discipleship was impossible to us on our own efforts alone. How have you experienced the benefits of the help of others and of God when you were faced with difficulties in life?

JOHN BYRNE OSA —Intercom
Be creative in interpreting the words "inherit eternal life" as entering into a deeper kind of life through prayer and the following of Jesus, but also through deep relationships with other people, or involvement with some noble cause.
The wealthy man is the model of the one who wants to enter into this deeper life the easy way, by drawing up a list of commandments - things to do and things to avoid - but eventually learns that the only way is to take the risk of leaving all and following one's Lord. Feel the pathos of the ending of verse 22, remembering those who live with regrets for not having taken the risk at a certain point in their lives.
Jesus is the teacher, the leader or spiritual guide who is humble but firm and invites the man to make the leap of faith, not coldly or objectively, but himself getting emotionally involved with the man and taking the risk of rejection.
The wealthy man can be for you a model of a community as well as a person; a nation, perhaps, or our modern civilization. Jesus can be a model of a great national leader or of the Church as a whole.
Scriptural Prayer
Lord, we thank you for the spiritual journey you have led us on. When we first began to follow Jesus seriously we were anxious to acquire many virtues. Then, one day, quite suddenly, we realised how self-righteous we had become: * we found ourselves condemning others; * we heard a sermon on humility which touched us; * someone we had thought of as a sinner appeared to us as deeply spiritual. It was as if Jesus had looked round at us and said to us, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!" It was an insight that astounded us and it took us several weeks to accept it. Lord, we thank you that you insisted.

MICHEL DE VERTEUIL—Lectio Divina on the Sunday Gospels

The young man who comes to Jesus is not like a leper coming for healing. He is looking for something quite different. What he seeks from this good teacher is enlightenment for a better life. He is not looking for a philosophical answer. It is his life that is at stake. He doesn’t use generalities. He wants to know what he personally has to do.
Before answering his question Jesus reminds him that ‘no one is good but God alone’. Before seeking an answer to what we must do, we must believe that we live in the sight of a God of incomparable goodness.
It is in that context that we will be able to let go of whatever is holding us back from the wholehearted following of Jesus.

JOSÉ A PAGOLA—Following in the Footsteps of Jesus