8th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, May 24
Ecclesiasticus 17: 24-29 / Mark 10:17-27
The Lord provides a way back; Return to the Lord.
Charlie Rumbaugh grew up in reform schools, jails, and mental hospitals. At the age of 17, he escaped from a manic-depressive ward, found a gun, and held up a jewellery store.A scuffle ensued and the jeweller was killed. A Texas jury sentenced Charlie to death. Shortly before his execution in September 1985, Charlie asked a friend to pray that God would give him the grace to forgive all the people he'd grown to hate. Moments before the execution, the warden asked Charlie if he wanted to say anything. Charlie said, "Yes." Then turning to the people present, Charlie said, "You may not forgive me my transgressions, but I forgive your transgressions against me. Then he said to the warden, "I'm ready."
How earnestly do we pray for the grace to forgive those who have caused us anguish? "Those who forgive most will be most forgiven." Joseph w. Bailey
Ben Sirach states that all, even the just, are affected by sin and therefore he sounds a call for penance.
The passage from the first reading begins and ends with the message of God's mercy. In between is the admonition to do penance and return to God. The urgency of return to God is given by the motive that is the same now as then: death. Death is for man the most certain and the most uncertain event of his life. The most certain because all men have to die and if we die in the state of sin we are certain to be eternally turned away from God. Death is the most decisive moment in our life. And yet: Death is the most uncertain. We do not know when, where and how we are going to die. God should keep man alive because it is only from the living that he gets his praise. We find this thought elsewhere in the Old Testament.
Today we cannot appreciate this thought any more. God gets his praise from the saints who praise him and who are his glory.
Jesus tells us clearly, there are two ways, but only one goal: heaven, to see God just as he is. Two ways are leading there: the way of the commandments and the way of the counsels. The way of the commandments is clearly marked. Jesus mentions only five commandments. They are the barest minimum of what is required. Even they are not easy and demand a great effort. Not many can say as the young man does: All these I have kept from my youth. The commandments express what man needs to be able to say: I love God and I love my neighbour. If you love, keep the commandments, Jesus adds: there is a higher way, the way of perfection. Love is never satisfied with the minimum God is so great that it is wise to give him all. Give all to gain all. God is greater than all possession. Choose him as your greatest treasure. Serve him alone in obedience. lie alone can fill and satisfy a human heart. Give him your whole love in chastity. All this we do in community with others, even if our work for God would send us back into the world.
The young man of the gospel is proud, perhaps a bit pharisaically, to have observed the commandments since his childhood. But Jesus asks more: for the kingdom of God one must be willing to follow Jesus absolutely and give up everything else for it. Jesus’ offer is too demanding for him to be accepted. The young man was not willing to pay the price. Are we always willing to pay it fully?
It would be interesting to ask people what they want in life. Interesting because of the answers that they might give. The probable answers are: I want health; I want success; I want freedom; I want independence; I want to be rich, etc. How many would say this: I want to find meaning in life. Or, I want to be the person that I am created to be. That can be the question for our reflection. What kind of person do I want to be? Do I want to be a deceitful person, a greedy person, a nasty person, a selfish person, a wicked person?
Or do I want to be a loving person, a generous person, a compassionate and caring person, a trustworthy and honest person? Such a question is essentially a question of identity.
Because in answering the question, we begin to ask about who we really are, why we are created, and what is the meaning of our existence.
All those questions point to a turning back to God, which is in essence, a repentance. As the 1st reading puts it, to those who repent, God permits return, and He even encourages those who are losing hope.
In other words, when we are losing meaning and hope in life, God comes to us with open arms and gives us meaning in life. When we down to nothing, God will come up with something. But God is not just something. He is our meaning. He is our everything.
God our Father, your Son Jesus looks at us with love and he asks us to follow him generously and radically. But you know how hard it is for us not to be attached more to things and people than to you. Sustain us in our struggles to be fully free for you and people, for what is impossible for us you can do in us through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen