Pastoral Sharings: "Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Alex McAllister SDS  
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Posted for October 11, 2015

  We have for our Gospel today the wonderful account of the rich young man and his encounter with Jesus.

This incident is common to the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). If you want to read an extended commentary on Matthew’s version then go no further than Pope John Paul’s Encyclical Veritatis in Splendor of 1993 which gives in chapter one the Pope’s own reflections on this marvellous story from the Gospels. 

The question of the young man is also our question: What must I do to inherit eternal life? And the answer of Jesus to the young man is also his answer to us: Keep the commandments. 

Jesus lists the commandments for him and even adds one in which is not in the Ten Commandments —You must not defraud. I suppose he adds this to show that the young man’s wealth was achieved honestly and that he was entirely blameless. The fact that the young man ran up to Jesus is also to illustrate his enthusiasm and heighten the fact of his goodness. 

The young man says that he is keeping the commandments. He is obviously living a moral life, a life of integrity. And like the young man we have no real difficulty in accepting the commandments, for they are the basic rules of life for anyone who wants to call themselves a Christian. 

But then comes the rub. Jesus says to him: There is one thing you lack, go sell everything you have give it to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, then come follow me. Even Jesus later acknowledges to his disciples that this is very difficult: How hard it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. 

Jesus is saying that even wealth can become an encumbrance to the life of a Christian. We tend to think of wealth as liberating, why else would so many people buy lottery tickets each week? We think of poverty and problems of every kind preoccupying us. Surely if we had the money we wouldn’t have to go to work, we wouldn’t have to worry about anything and we could devote ourselves to studying the scriptures and to prayer. But it never seems to work like that, does it? 

Jesus is telling us that anything, even wealth, can be a distraction from true discipleship. 

The disciples, however, have done precisely what Christ asked of them. They left everything they had and quite literally followed him. This is what those who enter a religious order do even today. You give up the possibility of marriage, of a career, of a salary and you devote yourself to prayer and to witnessing to the Good News. 

But the Apostles, as we have often seen, were slow on the uptake and jockeying for position and when-push-came-to-shove even managed to deny Christ. So even doing this one thing that the rich young man lacked —leaving everything and following Christ— does not guarantee entry to the Kingdom. 

With the very best of intentions we still manage to let ourselves down. For example those of us who have entered the priesthood or the religious life are still very human, still prey to envy and despite many sacrifices still frequently fall down on the job. 

Jesus tells the Apostles, in the memorable phrase: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.  

This is a grotesque image and probably because it is so grotesque we can be fairly certain that Jesus said it. Some have suggested that it was a copyist’s error because if you transpose one of the Greek letters the word for camel becomes the word for rope. Others relying on a note in a 9th century commentary say that the needle was a very small gate in the Jerusalem city wall.

People can try to explain it away but it is futile to do so. Jesus is asserting the utter impossibility of attaining heaven through one’s own efforts, that’s the point and the bizarreness of the image he uses merely strengthens his point.

The Apostles were right to say: In that case who can be saved? And we could and probably would say exactly the same thing. 

The truth that Jesus teaches is that it is impossible for any of us to get to heaven by our own efforts. Yes we are bound to keep the commandments and some are called to the more radical form of discipleship like the apostles through entering a religious order or some such equivalent. But only divine grace can enable us to enter the Kingdom of God. 

Entry to the Kingdom is entirely in the free gift of God. There is nothing we can do which will earn us entry to the Kingdom. 

Yes, God will, as Jesus says, reward us a hundred-fold for the sacrifices we make on his behalf. But these sacrifices are quite unacceptable if they are made merely to earn our way into heaven. When made for love, when made as an expression of true faith in God, when made freely and generously without thought of reward only then they will gain us the treasure we seek. 

Even though this sounds like the Catch 22 of the Gospels it isn’t really. Jesus is only testing our motives, he wants us to love him without strings attached. He wants us to love him for his own sake. 

So we are invited to step into the unknown, invited to take the plunge of faith, invited to commit our whole lives to God freely and without thought of reward. 

We are invited to do no less than to imitate Christ himself. And what did Christ do? He took the plunge and came down from his place in heaven to enter our world and take on human form. And he allowed himself to be subjected to all the idiocy, ridicule and meanness our fellow human beings could impose on him. 

He asks us to take a similar plunge, to leave our human world-view to renounce ourselves and to do things his way. This too will earn us ridicule and will put us under attack from those around us. 

But we will be free; we will be living a new kind of life, a life in the Spirit. We will be living a life of love, a life without dependence on material things, a life without worry because we have placed our entire reliance on Divine Providence. 

This is the kind of life the Saints live; it is the kind of life we ought to live.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
October 11, 2015

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time: What Do We Need?

How sad!  The man had the wonders of the Lord right there in front of him.  He could have become one of the Lord’s closest disciples.  Jesus heard him say that he had kept the commandments.  Jesus knew that he was a good man.  He loved him.  But he also knew that something was holding the man back.  His possessions were the reason for his life.  All his life he had worked hard to have a lot, or, perhaps, he had been born into a wealthy family and had been falsely taught that the family’s wealth would guarantee his happiness.  The man thought that he was on the top of society.  Then he received a shock.  True greatness was being offered to him.   Was he willing to change the focus of his life?  Was he willing to step away from his material possessions? Evidently not.  He left the Lord saddened.

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 10: 17–30
Gospel Summary

In today’s gospel passage, the rich young man who approaches Jesus asks the universally felt human question about the possibility of reaching a life beyond death. In other words, why do we humans have such a strong yearning for life and are nonetheless created mortal? This young man is obviously very confident and he uses ingratiating language as he addresses Jesus. When Jesus replies that only God is good, he is simply stating a truism of the Jewish tradition.

Jesus then reminds this young man of the traditional teaching in the Ten Commandments about the kind of moral behavior that promises eternal life. The young man replies in effect: “Been there, done that!” Jesus in turn seems to be captivated by his self-confidence and tells him that there is indeed more to be done if he really is serious about eternal life.

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B—October 11, 2015

Today, a man runs to Jesus and seeks an answer to life’s deepest question. Yet this did not end well. Why?

Gospel (Read Mk 10:17-30)

St. Mark describes for us an unforgettable exchange Jesus had with a man who earnestly seeks Him out. The man “ran” up to Him and “knelt down before Him.”   When we hear the man’s question (“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”), we have to be impressed with his honest seriousness. This man has a burning desire for spiritual truth, and he expects Jesus to reveal it.

Jesus Christ is the Same Yesterday, Today and Forever

Last year’s Synod on the Family was the low point in my Catholic faith.

It wasn’t the dueling cardinals and their clashing press comments that got to me. What pushed me close to despair was the fear that the Church might actually walk away from Jesus.

After I converted, I found a few of the Church’s teachings difficult to accept. But I hung in there and slowly came around to acceptance and a profound gratitude for the Church’s fidelity to Christ down through the centuries.

The Power of a Positive Pope

What was the greatest takeaway from Pope Francis’ visit to America? It was simply that he seemed to be a happy person. He laughed without being flippant or sarcastic. He was relaxed without being laid back. He was profound without being pompous. He was loving without being sentimental and confident without being arrogant. In a world of controlled messages, artificiality, political cunning and cynical spin, everything Pope Francis said and did was natural, transparent, simple and authentically positive.

Where does Pope Francis’ positive outlook come from?

Is he just a nice grandfatherly figure, or is there more to it than that?

Our Age Needs Wisdom

The whole Church is obliged to a deep reflection and commitment, so that the new culture now emerging may be evangelized in depth, true values acknowledged, the rights of men and women defended, and justice promoted in the very structures of society. In this way the “new humanism” will not distract people from their relationship with God, but will lead them to it more fully.

Please Mind My Own Business

Fraternal correction is defined as the admonishing of one’s neighbor with the purpose of reforming him, or, if possible, preventing his sinful indulgence in the first place.  The very idea of this makes America 2015 ™ cringe, because even to most Christians, those who are responsible for fraternally correcting each other, the concept of evaluating the behavior of another person is absolutely taboo if not wholly laughable.

Struggling with a Restless Heart

“Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee; for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee”

(St. Augustine, Confessions).

I think most writers are naturally introspective and reflective.  While in Eucharistic Adoration a week ago I prayed for many things, including strength and courage to stay focused on the path Christ wants me to follow and that my heart and mind would be prepared for Lent.  As I sometimes remember to do, I let my mind grow quiet and tried to listen as much as I prayed.  The quote from St. Augustine above, which is one of my favorites, crossed my mind and I thought of little else for the rest of my time in the parish chapel.  The word from the quote which resonated most with my desire to stay on the right path was restless.  Why “restless”?

Sin and the Reception of the Eucharist

In Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis reminds us that the Eucharist is “not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.” Amen to that. It is also true, however, that the Eucharist is not magic dust. The Eucharist, like Jesus during his ministry, “works” in relationship with the faith of the recipient. Again and again Jesus heals, telling people “your faith has healed you” (MK 10:52) and where there is no faith, as in his hometown, “he could do no miracles there” (MK 6:5). There is the miraculous self giving of Jesus and the acceptance of that gift by the recipient of the miracle. This is, as Henri De Lubac reminds us, not magic, which works independently of the will of the person but grace, which works with the person, perfecting nature not annihilating it. The Eucharist is grace, not magic.

Fourth Spiritual Work of Mercy: To Bear Wrongs Patiently

The fourth spiritual work of mercy is one that is simple in theory, but difficult in practice: “to bear wrongs patiently.” We all know how to be charitable and patient to those who are pleasant, kind and humble. However, our initial reaction is not “patience” when someone cuts in line in front of us after waiting for an hour at the DMV.

Jesus had much to say in regards to this spiritual work of mercy.  He said,

Fifth spiritual work of mercy: To forgive offenses willingly

The fifth spiritual work of mercy is one that will greatly prepare us to embrace the Jubilee Year of Mercy: “to forgive offenses willingly.” This particular work of mercy is one of the hardest, as it requires a great deal of humility to perform it.

Before we look at the practical side of this work of mercy, let us see what Jesus had to say about forgiveness:

The Prophetic Voice of the Catholic Church — Dignity of the Human Person and the Right to Life

“Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what it wants.” (Blessed Teresa of Calcutta)

We live in an age that is filled with signs and wonders, many of which are ominous and terrifying—our economies continue in turmoil, wars and the fears of terrorism rage, our environment is being polluted in ways unseen before, our families, youth and societal institutions continue their collapse. Some people see these and try to discern their meaning. Others seem to hardly notice at all. The writer of the New Testament Letter to the Hebrews opens with verses that emphatically proclaim that God has spoken to us through His Son. We should listen:

“In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom He also created the ages. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of His nature, upholding the universe by His word of power…” (Hebrews 1:1-3 RSV-CE).

Why You Should Love Your Guardian Angel

(And Not Name Him)

I remember learning about guardian angels as a child, and being completely freaked out by it. In my spiritual immaturity, the idea of a being that I could not see following me around wherever I went was unsettling.

As I grew and matured, of course, I began to not only understand the beauty and importance of guardian angels, but I also came to love, respect, and appreciate mine.

It’s the very thing that originally freaked me out – the constant presence of a being I could not see – that eventually endeared him to me. Given to me by God, my guardian angel is always there, loving me, caring for me, and guiding me.

Worried About the Church? Become a Child

I’ll be honest.

I’m tired of the grumbling, grousing, griping and gossip.

Why are there so many Catholics who are down on Pope Francis, biting their nails over the Synod on the Family and searching the skies for signs of the world’s end?

To be sure we live in uncertain times.

Read history. When were the times certain?

To be sure the church seems to be under threat–undermined by corruption and heresy within and attacked by persecution and infidels without.

Read your history. When was it otherwise?

You Have The Rite To Remain Silent

I didn’t start attending the “Latin Mass” out of some strange, retrograde desire to unring the bell of the liturgical changes brought on by the Second Vatican Council. Nor did I first darken the door of the local Chapel staffed by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter because I was shocked— shocked!— by the liturgical abuses of my juridical parish. Rather, when Benedict XVI issued his motu proprio Summorum Pontificium in 2007— and my liberal Catholic friends started gnashing their proverbial teeth, rending their clichéd garments, and literally wringing their hands— I thought I’d find out what all the skull-clenching was about.

Lesson One in Prayer

Let’s get very, very basic and very, very practical about prayer. The single most important piece of advice I know about prayer is also the simplest: Just do it!

How to do it is less important than just doing it. Less-than-perfect prayer is infinitely better than no prayer; more perfect prayer is only finitely better than less perfect prayer.

The Beads and Repetition of the Rosary

We should begin with what is most obvious in the Rosary. An aid is used in this prayer: a string or a chain of beads. Some of these beads are larger or are marked apart from the others by a greater distance. Ten smaller beads follow a larger one and form a decade. The whole chain has five such decades. The decades taken together are preceded by a sort of preface, formed by a little crucifix and followed by one large bead and then by three smaller beads.

The Catholic Church: Never Changing and Ever Changing

As the synod meets in Rome there is much talk about the Catholic Church changing.

The reason the Catholic Church is still here after 2,000 years is that she has not changed according to every fashion that comes along.

The Catholic Church’s role is not to adapt to the fashions and ideologies of the world, but to challenge the fashions and ideologies of the world.

That’s why, although she has remained for 2,000 years she has also been persecuted for those 2,000 years.

25 Things You Should Know About the Rosary

In honor of Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of the most Holy Rosary, we have composed a very simple list of 25 things that we should know about the most Holy Rosary. Hopefully upon reading this short list you will be motivated to get to know the Rosary better. Better yet we hope that you will be motivated to pray the Rosary all the days of your life. Follow the style of Saint Pope John Paul II: “To contemplate the Face of Jesus through the eyes and heart of Our Lady.

Out of the Darkness They Came

The best stories often just happen. Frequently, they begin as a series of unplanned, spontaneous occurrences that no one sees coming; events that work together to first form a memory then quickly evolve to reveal a story worth telling.

Such were the origins of this story.

The Joys and Challenges of Modern Fatherhood

Sometimes I can almost imagine myself as a great father to my children… then I do something to mess it up. I vividly recall a past October when the boys and I welcomed my wife home from a five-day trip to California where she had been visiting her sister. What started out as my great adventure with the kids at the beginning of her trip turned into exhaustion at the end, and I guiltily looked forward to my wife’s coming home so I could escape to my work and other activities. I had just experienced a great time with my sons (we really did have fun), and now I was looking to flee the scene and go back to activities that aren’t nearly as important. What was my problem?

The Joy of the Gospel of Life

When I was about middle school age, I participated in a life chain with my mom. We lined up shoulder-to-shoulder with hundreds of other pro-life people along a busy stretch of road in my hometown. We held up pro-life signs and prayed.  I don’t remember much about the day, except where we were standing, and the fact that a lady drove by us and yelled out the window, “You’re the ones who are killing!” I don’t think I had any idea what she meant by that comment at the time, but I did understand that she was angry. Very angry.

The Pope, the Rosary and the Battle of Lepanto

On October 7, Catholics remember Our Lady of the Rosary.

The feast was actually instituted under another name: In 1571 Pope Pius V instituted “Our Lady of Victory” as an annual feast in thanksgiving for Mary’s patronage in the victory of the Holy League over the Muslim Turks in the Battle of Lepanto. Two years later, in 1573, Pope Gregory XIII changed the title of this feastday to “Feast of the Holy Rosary.” And in 1716, Pope Clement XI extended the feast to the whole of the Latin Rite, inserting it into the Roman Catholic calendar of saints, and assigning it to the first Sunday in October. In 1913, Pope Pius X changed the date to October 7, as part of his effort to restore celebration of the liturgy of the Sundays.

Who (or What) Was Lucifer?

Recently I got a query from someone wondering about an anti-Catholic video that claimed “the pope’s deacon” invoked Lucifer during the Easter Vigil liturgy and referred to Jesus as his Son.

Of course, that’s not what happened, but to understand what really did happen, you need to know a few things about “lucifer.”

What does the word lucifer mean?

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