Reflections on the Readings
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 11, 2009
Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost - Year B
By Dennis Hankins
"You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." (Jesus, to the rich man)
It is a fact, you can't take it with you. And trying to keep it to yourself could keep you from eternal life.
The rich man asked how to inherit eternal life. Perhaps he had accumulated his wealth not only by his business dealings but also through inheritance. Jesus, however referred to the life this man requested as treasure. Perhaps the rich man thought he could come into the life Jesus spoke of without any effort or personal participation. Much like how one may inherit the family fortune.
Pride goes before a fall, and this rich man's testimony seems to have holes in it. He claimed fidelity to all the commandments.
"One thing you lack."
"Really?" said the rich man. "What is it? I'll do anything you ask of me."
Drawing upon years of negotiating experience, he was ready to make a deal with the Master. What Jesus saw was an empty soul, shriveled up by stinginess, greed, and a callousness toward the poor.
With eyes filled with love and invitation, Jesus gazed deeply into the rich man's soul. The rich man waited for the Master to give him a proposition. He was sure he could accommodate anything he might be asked to do.
Softly Jesus speaks, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
Simple, right? No, I'm sorry. Not so easy for this man. You see, he had great possessions. Years of accumulation, inheritance, business deals, and the like had blurred his vision. Even now it was blinding him. Others? Give my stuff to others?
His excited face evaporated as his mind calculated what this new treasure would cost him.
I was raised in a church that preached and expected people to be 'born again.' Many through the years had knelt at the old fashioned altar and found grace and peace for their souls. I am one of those who knelt at that altar, who prayed and cried, and repented my way into the arms of Jesus. Some of you have a similar background.
Isn't it interesting that Jesus invited this rich man to his treasure by asking him to forsake his? Treasure in heaven, being saved, entering into eternal life in the New Testament is mostly about opening your heart to God and others. This is because the human condition can be mostly characterized as being closed to God and others; like the poor, the weak, and the helpless.
The way Jesus speaks of conversion is more of a daily necessity rather than a single, one time event. Praying through at an altar is fine. I would never denigrate it or my experience at such an altar.
This is important. If I get to heaven and say I remember the time, the place, the very moment of my coming to know Jesus, but lived my life with a closed heart to my neighbor, to the poor, to the downtrodden, and the new comer in the pew in front of me, I'll be no better than the rich man who kept all the commandments and still lacked one thing.
Treasure in heaven is found in the hungry we feed, in the cup of water we give to the thirsty, and the naked we clothe. That's where we enter the kingdom and the age to come.
As much as I embrace the precious time I repented of my sins way back when I was a hardened sinner at the ripe old age of nine, conversion is really a lifestyle. It is a daily metanoia, a change of attitude and mind about the good God above and the world he loves.
Let us pray: Dear Father, you spared not even you son, that the light of life would penetrate the blindness of my soul. Through your son who emptied himself and came as a servant, who rules and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit. Amen.