4 March 2019 - Monday of the 8th even week

1P 1:3-9; Mk 10:17-27

Abbey of O.L. of the Mississippi, Iowa, USA

 

 

Homily

 

          The comparison of the different versions of this story, which we find in the three synoptic Gospels, shows us that it has undergone a rather complex evolution that does not need to be analyzed at this time.  Let us simply remember that, in its present state, in the Gospel of Mark, the story includes two intertwined themes:  The primitive theme concerns the unbelief of the Jews and the second concerns the difficulty of entering the Kingdom of God with riches.  Let us consider them separately.

 

          We must first remember that, at this very moment in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus encounters more and more disbelief and opposition from the Jews and is on his way to Jerusalem where he will be put to death, as he has already announced on more than one occasion.  We must remember this in order to understand all that his invitation to the man who presents himself to him can mean: "Come and follow me! ».

 

          The young man of this Gospel presents to Jesus a really important question that is in the heart of every human person: "How can we inherit eternal life? " or "How can we be saved? "However, he asks his question incorrectly.  He addresses Jesus by calling him "good master", treating him like a rabbi among others.  He simply wants to know the opinion of a master among others, reserving the right to judge whether he will like his teaching - the right to accept or reject it.

 

          By reminding him that only God is good, Jesus already implies that his answer will not be that of a school, but a divine command that requires action rather than endless discussion.

 

          Jesus reminds the young man of the central nucleus of the Law.  Let us note, in passing, that Jesus leaves aside the first precepts of the Decalogue relating to God and cites only those relating to the neighbor.  Doing this, Jesus clearly indicates that the eternal life of interest to him is not a life after death that could be won by the merits of good actions, but rather the "kingdom of God" begun here on earth in justice and charity.  The young man seems a little bit stung by this answer from Jesus and, as a good Pharisee, he adds: "I have done all this since my youth -- I have complied with all the law.  I have a good conscience. (In Matthew's version he also adds this probably rather rhetorical question: "What else do I have left to do? ") This legalistic attitude is castigated by Jesus who adds: "Only one thing is missing: go, sell everything you have, give it to the poor... then come and follow me".

 

          At that point it became clear that the young man's questions were only a screen.  Confronted with the demands of faith, he admits that he cannot face them.  When he is invited to leave aside his moral and legalistic questions, to meet and follow Jesus, he withdraws.  In the end, believing and being saved means attaching oneself to the person of Jesus... even as he walks straight towards his death.

 

          To this first theme is linked a second one - a theme very dear to Jesus: the one that no one can hold onto Jesus unless he is detached from everything else or from every other person.  The young man in question could not become attached to Jesus because he had great possessions and could not resign himself to abandoning them to follow Jesus.

 

          The lesson of the first stratum of this story is that salvation is a free gift from God.  Both the young man who presents himself to Jesus and the disciples themselves at the end of the story ask: "Who can be saved? "Jesus' answer is that this is impossible for men - whether they are rich or poor.  Those who can be saved are those whom God saves.  To men, it's impossible.  To God it is possible and he always offers this gift to all.

 

          However, to receive this gift, one must create a void within oneself that aspires to be filled.  The Jewish historian Josephus tells how the Roman general Pompey, after capturing Jerusalem in 63 B.C., walked through the Holy of Holies of the Temple and found nothing, absolutely nothing there.  This was the Jewish way of representing the ineffable nature of Yahweh.  Likewise, mystics have always considered this void this "nada" (nothing) as a necessary disposition to be transformed into God, to be saved.

 

          Jesus repeated this message using many figures, for example: "Amen, Amen, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it bears much fruit. » 

 

          When Jesus, on his way to Jerusalem, said to his aspirant disciple: "Come and follow me", he invited him to share this paschal mystery.  But this presupposes the renunciation of all ties and desires.  He had mentioned it to the other disciples before: no gold, no silver, no copper in your belts, no bag for the day, no spare tunic, no sandals, no stick.

 

          This story tells the story of a man's concrete call through Jesus.  This one always calls everyone by his own name.  Each of us must discover exactly what his or her personal call is.  But because we are all called to salvation, we are also all called to achieve in one form or another an authentic detachment from the heart. 

 

Armand Veilleux