October 11, 2015
28th Sunday OT_B


The young man of today’s gospel passage sure knows how to do an interview. He knew the right questions. In fact, he already knew the answer to his questions. To the question “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” the Lord had an easy answer: “Simple, young man! … No killing, no bearing false witness … No stealing … No defrauding  … and (wouldn’t you know it!) Honor your old folks!”

The interviewer was not exactly pleased with the answer that after all, he knew all along! “I have observed all this from my youth!” “So what is new?” “Anything else?”

First lesson for the day … and it is all about us, not about God! Deep inside, we know what is right. Deep in our hearts, we know the answer. And we know that life is more than just avoiding this or that, or not doing one thing, and refraining from doing another.

I remember that as a young brother in seminary, during an outing with young people, I took a cold beer after a long hike in the woods. Some of the young people, simple as they were, were aghast that I was guzzling a bottle of beer. You know the line … “Oh, religious brothers who are going to be priests ought not be drinking beer!” At least one of them was honestly scandalized.

The Lord must have scandalized not just a few. Judas was scandalized that Jesus did not frown on the fawning woman who poured expensive perfume on his feet one fine day. The Lord must have scandalized some more when he would often hie off to the summer residence of Martha, Mary and Lazarus up in Bethany, where the air was cooler and the crowds thinner. Jesus must have occasioned a whole lot of gossip for he wined and dined with the likes of Zacchaeus, Levi and other unsavory figures that are the equivalent of our society’s hated Customs and Internal Revenue people!

But yes! The Lord did have a word to say to that young man who knew the right question but gave the wrong answer: “You lack one thing. Go, sell, give, come, and follow.”

Fair enough you say? Yes! … until the young man’s face fell in disbelief and disappointment.

I remember the time when the world was younger. As a not-quite-twenty-year-old student back then in seminary, I started collecting favorite books. Those were the days when we were told never to accumulate things. Some of the younger ones in seminary questioned why I had quite a number of titles in my possession. But when I had to move some place else and had to leave my stuff, those same ones who criticized me for keeping too many titles were the ones who divided the loot among themselves, keeping to themselves whatever it was they wanted all along.

You see, if you get my drift for today, possessions begin, not in your pocket or purse, but in your heart. Being rich or poor is not dictated by the lack – or presence, as the case may be – of a fat wallet or an overflowing bank account. Being rich or poor begins in the heart – where all desires are born, where all ambition is grown.

Being rich and poor goes beyond having or lacking. It has to do with being rich in values and rich in the appreciation of what is available, while at the same time being poor in things one cannot hope to have, or has no right to ever have, or one simply cannot get. It has to do with knowing that there are values and there are values, and one and only one can ever be the ultimate value, with all the rest as relative values.

The Lord sure knew his onions, so to say. He appreciated good wine and good food, but he was no slave to the same. He did not even own a pillow to rest his head on, while foxes had their dens.

Second lesson for us today is this … The Lord reads our hearts. “Everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.” (2nd reading).  Peter missed the lesson, at least initially. He still had the gall to complain: “We have given up everything and followed you.” And, mind you, Peter did have something to live on, more than just the average person then.

And this is where the real lesson comes shining through. The poorest are really those who are enslaved by their desires and covetousness. The richest are those who are never weighed down and pulled down by whatever good thing he or she has or can use. The poorest are those who are slaves. The richest are those who, while having, did not subject all their doing to the demands of what they owned, or had, or possessed.

The rich are those who can give them up for a higher cause – that is, for the kingdom.

And we know the rest of the story … they “will receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and land – with persecutions!” – and eternal life in the world to come!

That, my dear, is the ultimate riches! Any further questions?