Homily on the 28th Sunday
The theme of our celebration today: Our attitude in following Jesus. Following the Lord may cause you to leave what is familiar. Following the Lord means, distancing yourself from those who have no passion for the Lord. Following the Lord means, letting go of somethings! Following the Lord means giving Him 100% of your heart! Following the Lord will ultimately lead to heaven.
How can you trap a monkey? I grew up in the country and we are farmers. My home was actually 7 miles away from the forest. In the forest we have wild animals including elephant. Elephants can’t cross over because we were protected by the second largest arch dam in the Asian continent. When I was little, we had the problem monkeys destroying the fruits and vegetables. I have seen the farmers using a very simple but smart way of catching the monkeys. They will take a tender coconut and cut open a very small hole at the end. The hole that is just big enough to allow a monkey’s hand to push inside. The monkey will grab the tender coconut pulp and make a fist. The thing about money’s fist, once they grab something, they will never let it go. Farmers will be hiding behind the scene with a net. Suddenly the trapper casts the net over the monkey and traps it. I have seen the monkeys playing with king cobras. They will grab the snake to play; but even when they realize that cobras are too dangerous, they will never let it go. The cobra will bite them and kill. We too are sometimes behaving like the monkeys. We have a hard time letting some things go. We are obsessed with somethings in our lives and we will never let them go that can be detrimental to our spiritual and physical pursuits. Today’s Gospel presents a rich young man who wants eternal life but will not relinquish or let go his riches.
The reading presents the danger of ‘possessions” in our lives. In reality our “possessions” often possess us, and we become their prisoners. What we really do is give our “things” top priority in our lives. Thus, we violate the First Great Commandment, which demands that we give absolute and unconditional priority to God. About a hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the Jewish community was a minority in the great cosmopolitan city of Alexandria, Egypt, cut off from the comforting religious institutions of Jerusalem, and subject to great cultural pressure from the pagan Greek society. They were in danger of losing their identity because of the constant temptation to follow Greek philosophy and Greek morality rather than their Faith traditions. A learned and faithful Jew assessed the situation of his fellow Jews in Alexandria and tried to reinforce their faith with a book, now called Wisdom, which offered them a virtuous and a righteous way of life. By “wisdom” the author meant not just worldly wisdom but a spiritual wisdom that included loyalty to older Jewish traditions. Today’s first reading, taken from the book of Wisdom, teaches, somewhat analogously, that one should prefer wisdom to every other good thing. The reading identifies wisdom as the greatest possession of all and contrasts it with material possessions. True wisdom comes from God; it is the ability to see things as God sees them and to understand things as God understands them. Only Divine wisdom can teach us how to live wisely and successfully in life, making wise choices. We are also invited to see Jesus as Wisdom Incarnate and to give him priority over everything else in life.
Today’s gospel is not about money. It’s about making choices. Yes, the young man who comes up to Jesus has money. He has many possessions. But they are not his tragedy. His tragedy is thinking that he can choose everything. This man is already a good person. He follows all the commandments. He has resources by which he can accomplish many good things. But, what he wanted to do was simply add something more to the good things he already had: being a disciple of Jesus. Jesus says to him, “You can be my disciple. You can inherit eternal life. But first you have to let go of something you already have.” The man could not do this so he walks away sad. Jesus did not want this man as a disciple on his own terms, but rather on Jesus’ terms. His failure is a reminder to us that we cannot have it all. In order to say yes to some things, we have to say no to others. Unless we are willing to pass on some very good things, we will not be able to attain the best things.
To say yes to the intimacy and support of marriage, we have to be willing to say no the freedom that the single life offers. In order to say yes to any man or woman to be our spouse, we have to be willing to say no to every other man and woman in the world. We cannot have it all. This is why we must determine what is most important in our life and then be willing to let go of those things which hold us back from attaining it.
Now this is not an easy movement. We could be overwhelmed like the Apostles in the gospel when they say, “Then who can be saved?” That’s why Jesus’ words are so important: “All things are possible for God.” When we have to let go of something we love for a higher purpose, when we have to say no to a good thing in order to attain something that is better, we might not have the strength to do that on our own. But we are not on our own. God is with us and all things are possible for God. So, first we must look at our lives and discern what is really important. And then we must pray, “Lord, you have shown me what to do. Give me the strength to let go of whatever holds me back from choosing it. Show me how to say yes by learning to say no.”
The Lord’s will is not only that we love Him but that we love Him with all our hearts, all our minds, all our souls, and all our strength (Lk 10:27). It is relatively easy to give ninety-five percent, even ninety-eight percent, of our lives to the Lord. However, the great decision and the fiercest battle is about giving that last percent or two of our lives to God. That last percent is our all, the “one more thing” we must do (Mk 10:21).
Your one more thing more may not be to “sell what you have and give to the poor” (Mk 10:21). It might be:
- loving an enemy,
- admitting an addiction and taking it to the Lord,
- repenting and going to Confession,
- stopping contraception,
- starting evangelization,
- saying “yes” to a particular vocation, and
- taking the time and engaging more in your parish community.
At this moment, Jesus is looking at you with love. Give Him the “one thing more.” Give Him all your love.