The 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 10 October 2021
Lectionary Readings: Wisdom 7:7-11; Ps. 90:12-13, 14-15, 16-17 Heb. 4:12-13; Mark 10:17-30
Theme: “You lack one thing”
The first reading for today (Wis. 7:7-11) is the description of Jesus’ loving challenge to the young man in our gospel reading: “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.’” (Mk. 10:21)
“Therefore I prayed, and understanding was given me; / I called on God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.” (Wis.7:7) Doesn’t the young man ‘call’ on whom he sees as ‘good’ and who answers him by saying: “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” (v.18) Jesus answers him at the level he asked: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (v.17b) He wants to know what he should ‘do’ – what good deeds must he do to gain eternal life. Wisdom tells us that the person prayed not for anything specific but waited and God gifted him with ‘understanding’ and then when he called (prayed more fervently and constantly) God gifted him with the spirit of wisdom.
The young man asks for a way to eternal life. Earlier in Wisdom (1:15), we read: “For righteousness is immortal.” The question is: ‘how did the young man understand righteousness?’ His initial understanding was to follow the law to the letter which he had done but in his heart, he longed for something or someone more meaningful. Jesus answers him in 10:21 above. What does he do? “When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.” (v.22) He had not allowed the Words of Wisdom (Sophia in the First Testament and Jesus in the Gospel) to mold his life: “I preferred her (Sophia) to scepters and thrones, /and I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with her. /Neither did I liken to her any priceless gem, /because all gold is but a little sand in her sight, /and silver will be accounted as clay before her.” (Vv.8-9)
The Gospel acclamation offers us the first Beatitude given by Jesus in Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The beatitudes are the way of righteous living – looking at life through the eyes of God which is the gift of wisdom. “Poor in spirit” describes those who know their need for God and do not rely on riches to give them life satisfaction. To the young man, his riches were part of him and thus he could not give them up and rely on the providence of God. He could not share with others either. So we have a case of someone not having made the commandment of love his center. He wanted eternal life by ‘doing’ good deeds but not by having a relationship with his Creator and Giver of all good gifts and because all are gifts, by sharing them with his neighbor – made, like him, in the image of his Creator-God.
We have to praise the young man for his faithfulness to the commandments – I am reminded of the elder son in the ‘Parable of the Prodigal and the Elder brother’. He can also be praised for his going to the best teacher – the Logos – the Word of God – the Wisdom of God. We read in the letter to the Hebrews: “Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”(v.12). This is who Jesus is and it is only in a relationship with him that we learn the true meaning and ways of Wisdom. The young man was not ready for such a step because he had not grasped that “all things are possible with God” (v. 27).
For Reflection and Discussion:  The words of Jesus to the young man about what he lacked are addressed to each of us hearing these words today. How have I answered them in the past? How do I need to answer them today?
Bibliography: Ceresko, Anthony R. Introduction to Old Testament Wisdom. St Paul’s, Bangalore: 2005
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Bernadette Chellew, South Africa, Bat Kol Alumna 2008