October 8, 2018

O. T. XXVIII (Oct 14 Sunday) homily

One-page summary of OT 28 Sunday (Oct 14) Homily on Mk 10:17-30

Central theme: Today’s readings remind us that we do not possess anything in our life that we refuse to surrender to the Lord. In reality, these things often possess us, and we become the prisoners of our possessions. What we have really done is to 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.

Scripture lessons summarized:The first readingadvises us to use the God-given virtue of prudence and to seek true wisdom in preference to vanishing realities like riches or political and social influence.  Solomon chose Wisdom before everything else.  But when he accepted Wisdom, he received everything else along with her. Since Jesus is Wisdom Incarnate, when we put following Jesus ahead of everything else we receive everything else along with Jesus. In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 90), we beg God to teach us how to make proper judgments and choices in our lives that we may live with Him forever. The second reading warns us that we are accountable before God as to how we use our blessings and that the “living and effective word of God” must be our guide in evaluating the use of our blessings.  In today’s Gospel selection (Mark 10:17-30), we find three sections: a narrative about Jesus’ encounter with a rich man, Jesus’ sayings about wealth as a possible obstacle to following him and Jesus’ promise of reward for those who share their material possessions with the needy. Jesus reminded the rich man of the commandments that deal with relationships with other people and challenged him to sell what he had and to give the money to the poor.    Jesus shocked his disciples with this challenge to the Jewish belief that material wealth and prosperity were signs of God’s blessings. Instead, he declared that true religion consisted in one’s sharing his blessings with others rather than hoarding them and getting inordinately attached to them.

Life messages: 1) We need to accept the invitation to generous sharing. Jesus was so generous that he gave us his very self.  Hence, there should be a desire to give in the heart of every Christian.  God does not ask us to give up our riches, but he does ask us to use them wisely in His service.  We must manage our possessions wisely, so that they do not gain control over our hearts.  God gives us time, talents and riches that we may use them in the service of others.  2) “You are lacking one thing.”  We all have something in our lives that serves as a major obstacle to happiness and peace.   It may be anger, holding grudges, alcohol, drugs, lust, apathy, lies, unfaithfulness, theft, or fraud.  Let us invite God into our lives and into our efforts to face and remove that one obstacle to holiness.

OT XXVIII [B] (Oct 14) Wis 7:7-11; Heb 4:12-13; Mk 10:17-30  (L-18)

Homily starter anecdotes: #1:It is Tough to be Billionaire.” Paul Getty, the founder and CEO of Getty Oil company and owner of several other companies died at 83 because of cardiac arrest in 1976, leaving his 3-4 billion worth of wealth to his three sons. He was the wealthiest man of his days who was born and brought up in the U.S. and established the headquarters of his oil empire in London and headed it for 25 years. He spoke most European languages and understood Russian and Arabic, Latin and Greek. He married five times and divorced his wives. He told an interviewer, “I would give all my wealth for a successful marriage. I hate being a failure. I hate not being able to make a success of marriage.” He admitted that money could not buy him happiness and often it gave him more unhappiness. He refused to give his money to charities arguing that it made people lazy. Besides, giving money to needy people is unrewarding and wrong. He even wrote an article by name “It is Tough to be Billionaire.” His books are “My Life and Fortune” and “How to be Rich.” In today’s gospel, Jesus advises a rich young man to share his riches with the needy to gain eternal life and never-ending happiness. (https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/1215.html).

# 2: How can you trap a monkey?  With a coconut, some roasted peanuts or rice and a string, tribal people living in the border of forests in Africa, Sri Lanka and India have been trapping monkeys for centuries.  At one end of the coconut, they open a hole that is big enough to allow a monkey’s hand to push inside. However, the hole is too small for a monkey to remove his hand when he makes a fist.  On the other end of the coconut, a string is firmly attached and tied to a tree trunk.  The coconut trap, with roasted peanuts or roasted rice inside, is placed along a monkey’s trail, and the trapper hides behind bushes with a net.  The monkey smells the peanuts and is attracted to them.   He puts his hand through the hole and grabs a handful of peanuts, after which it is impossible for him to remove his hand since he is unwilling to let go of the peanuts.  Suddenly the trapper casts the net over the monkey and traps it.  We too are attracted by different “peanuts” 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 “the peanuts” of riches.

# 3: Aladdin’s magic lamp and Solomon’s dream: Ala’ Ad-Din is the Arabic title of one of the best-known stories in The Thousand and One Nights. The chief protagonist of the tale, Ala’ Ad-Din, or Aladdin, chances upon an African magician who claims to be his uncle. At the magician’s request, Aladdin retrieves a lamp from a cave and discovers that he can summon up powerful jinn or genies to do his bidding. “Your wish is my command,” Aladdin is told, and he satisfies his desires for wealth, power and long life. Aladdin’s adventures and good fortune have left many young readers dreaming of sharing similar experiences. Imagine that you are Aladdin and that magic lamps and genies do exist. . . what would you ask for? Solomon found himself in just such a situation as described in today’s first reading. Although magic did not factor into the equation, God Himself appeared to the young king Solomon in a dream, asking for his wishes. In 1 Kings 3:5-14, Israel’s great king was told by Yahweh in a dream: “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” When Solomon asked for wisdom, i.e. for “an understanding heart to judge the people and to distinguish right from wrong,” he was praised by God. He had not asked for long life or riches or for the life of his enemies; because of this he was given the gift of wisdom. (Sanchez Archives).

Introduction:. Today’s readings remind us that we do not possess anything in our life that we refuse to surrender to the Lord.  But, 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.  The first reading advises us to use the God-given virtue of prudence and to seek true wisdom rather than to seek vanishing realities like riches or political and social influence.  Solomon chose Wisdom before everything else.  But when he accepted Wisdom, he received everything else along with her. Since Jesus is Wisdom Incarnate, when we put following Jesus ahead of everything else, we receive everything else along with Jesus. In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 90), we beg God to teach us how to make proper judgments and choices in our lives that we may live with Him forever. The second reading warns us that we are accountable before God as to how we use our blessings and that the “living and effective word of God” must be our guide in evaluating our use of God’s blessings.  Today’s Gospel selection (Mark 10: 17-30), gives us Jesus’ teaching on the dangers of attachment to riches, and he speaks about the rewards awaiting those who put him and his message before their earthly ambitions, of building up. We find three sections: a narrative about Jesus’ encounter with a rich man, Jesus’ sayings about wealth as a possible obstacle to following him and Jesus’ promise of reward for those who share material possessions with the needy. In today’s Gospel, a rich man encounters Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God and Jesus reminds the rich man of the commandments that deal with our relationships with other people, challenging him to sell what he has and to give the money to the poor.  Jesus’ challenge exposes two missing pieces in the rich man’s life: a sense of compassion for the poor and a willingness to share his blessings with the needy.  Jesus shocks his disciples with this challenge to the Jewish belief that material wealth and prosperity are signs of God’s blessings. Instead, he declares that true religion consists in sharing one’s blessings with others rather than hoarding them and getting inordinately attached to them. Jesus’ teaching exposes the shallowness of our own easy assumptions about wealth and raises questions about the real basis of our security and hopes.

First reading, Wisdom 7:7-11, explained: 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 bolster their faith with a book, now called Wisdom, which offered them a virtuous way of life.  By “wisdom” the author meant not just worldly wisdom but a spiritual wisdom that included adherence 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.  It quotes from King Solomon’s personal valuation of wisdom: “I preferred her [true wisdom] to scepter and throne and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her.” In his prayer for wisdom, the first-century BC Alexandrian Jewish wisdom teacher 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. In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 90), we beg God to teach us how to use prudence to make proper judgments and choices in our lives that we may live with Him forever. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, prudence enables a person to do two things. First, prudence helps one to see one’s “true good” in any given circumstances: it helps one recognize which good to aim for. Second, prudence helps one to choose the means to reach this “true good”. After humility, prudence is the second-most foundational virtue.

Second Reading, Hebrews 4:12-13: The Letter to the Hebrews was written to bolster the Faith of Jewish converts to Christianity.  These converts faced the contempt of their former Jewish friends, and they felt nostalgia for the institutions of Judaism (rituals, sacrifices, priesthood, etc.), that were either absent or greatly transformed in their new religion, namely Christianity.  This letter tries to show them in what ways the new religion of Christianity is better than their old Jewish faith.  St. Paul tells them, “The word of God is something alive and active: it cuts like any double-edged sword.” The living and effective word of God has the power to penetrate into our body and soul like a double-edge sword. We should allow the word of God in all its vital power and effectiveness to challenge us and our priorities and goals in life. The sharp word of God confronts, chastises, encourages, challenges, nourishes, and inspires all who will attend it. Like a double-edge sword, the word has the dual capacity of revealing God to the believer and revealing the believer to him/herself. No wonder the “two-edged sword” in today’s Gospel story of the young rich man, cuts through all our conventional ways of thinking and drives us to reflect on the things that really matter!

Gospel exegesis: The rich and good young man’s sins of omission.  Obviously, this young man who came to Jesus in search of eternal life really wanted to be accepted by Jesus as a disciple. The words “inherit eternal life” not only means life with God after death, but also entering a deeper kind of life through prayer and the following of Jesus, and through deep relationships with other people, or involvement with some noble cause. However, Jesus did not want this man as a disciple on his own terms, but rather on Jesus’ terms.  The young man claimed that, from his youth, he had observed all the commandments Jesus mentioned, including the fourth commandment.  His tragedy was that he loved “things” more than people.  He was trapped by the idea that he could keep his possessions and still obtain God’s mercy.  He failed to realize the fact that his riches had built a wall between himself and God.  In other words, his possessions “possessed” him.  Even though the rich man had never killed, stolen, or committed adultery, he was breaking both the commandment forbidding idolatry and the one commanding love of neighbor.  He worshiped his wealth more than God. That is why Jesus challenged him to rid himself of the attachment to wealth, wherein lies his security and social status, and trust himself completely to God by following Jesus.

 

Why should Jesus seemingly reject the title of “good teacher” telling the young man that God alone is good? According to Venerable Bede, the One and Undivided Trinity itself—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—is the Only and One Good God. The Lord, therefore, does not deny Himself to be good, but implies that He is God; He does not deny that He is ‘good Teacher [Master],’ but He declares that no master is good except God.”  Jesus’ injunction to this man was the inspiration for many saints, who have taken Jesus at His word. Perhaps the two most famous were St. Anthony of Egypt (the “Father of Monks” and writer of the first monastic rule; ca. 250-356), and St. Francis of Assisi (ca. 1182-1226), who committed himself to live a life of radical Gospel poverty.

The unaccepted challenge: Jesus realizes that this rich young man is shackled by his possessions.  So, he challenges the young man by listing those precepts of the Decalogue that deal with social and familial relations. Then Jesus tells the young man that, if he wants to be perfect, keeping the commandments is not enough. He challenges the young man to share his riches with the poor.  “There is one thing lacking.  Sell all you have and give to the poor, and then you will have real treasure. After that, come and be with me.” Jesus thus makes it clear that a true follower who wants to possess eternal life must not only be a respectable gentleman who hurts nobody, but also someone who shares his riches, talents and other blessings with the less fortunate.  In other words, Jesus tells the young man that life is a matter of priorities. God must have the first priority in our lives. Unfortunately, the rich man is unwilling to accept Jesus’ idea that wealth is not something to be owned but rather something to be shared with others.  Jesus asks him to break his selfish attachment to his wealth by sharing it.  He makes the same challenge to each of us today.  Our following of Jesus has to be totally and absolutely unconditional.  Our attachment may not be to money or material goods, nor to another person, a job, our health, or our reputation.  We must be ready to cut off any such attachment in order to become true Christian disciples, sharing our blessings with others. We are called to be so much more than rule-followers; we are called to be Christ followers.

Camel through the eye of a needle: Jesus uses a vivid hyperbole, or “word cartoon,” to show how riches bar people from Heaven.  The camel was the largest animal the Jews knew, and the eye of a needle the smallest hole.  The needle’s eye is variously interpreted.  Most probably Jesus used it literally.  The little, low and narrow pedestrian gate on the outer wall of the city of Jerusalem through which even a man on foot could hardly pass erect, was also called “The Needle’s Eye” in Jesus’ time.  Others have suggested that kamelos (camel) could have been a scribal or copyist’s error and should have read kamilos or cable (a ship’s thick cable or hawser rope). In either case, the difficulty of dealing carefully and conscientiously with riches is clearly affirmed. Some modern Bible scholars think that both of these interpretations are attempts to “water” down the impossibility of getting a camel through the eye of a needle, but Jesus is saying that it is not impossible, by the grace of God, for a wealthy person to keep his spiritual integrity, though it is extremely difficult and uncommon.

Why do riches prevent man from reaching God?  First, riches encourage a false sense of independence.  The rich think that they can buy their way to happiness and buy their way out of sorrow and, hence, that they don’t need God.  Second, riches shackle a man to this earth (Mt. 6:21).  If a man’s interests are all earth-bound, he never thinks of the hereafter. Instead of having security and tranquility, he is an eternal hostage of his money. Third, riches tend to make a man selfish. Fourth, Avarice, the greed for money, in addition to being idolatry, is also the source of unhappiness. The avaricious is an unhappy man. Distrusting everyone, he isolates himself. But we need to understand that Jesus is not against riches as such, nor against the rich.  Zacchaeus, Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus were Jesus’ close friends and they were rich. Jesus never condemned wealth or earthly goods in themselves. What Jesus condemns is exaggerated attachment to money and property; to make one’s life depend on these and to accumulate riches only for oneself (Luke 12:13-21). In other words, Jesus is talking about our attitude towards wealth. There are very rich men who have acquired their wealth honestly and justly and who spend much of their wealth on charitable causes. Their wealth will not hinder them from reaching heaven. On the other hand, there are many in the middle and lower income-bracket who may be offending against justice through the means they use to acquire what they have, and in the little helps which they refuse to a needy neighbor. The Bible doesn’t say that money is the root of all evil; it says that the love of money is the root of all evil. Jesus also challenges the Jewish belief that material wealth and prosperity are signs of God’s blessings and condemns a value system that makes “things” more valuable than people. Finally, Jesus asserts that those who have made the kingdom of God their priority, will be well compensated both in this life with earthly blessings combined with pains and suffering, and in the next life with everlasting life.

Life messages: 1) We need to “Do something beautiful for God” by reaching out to others. That’s the message we need to reflect on.  Our most precious possession is our souls.  Let us give ourselves away and give lavishly.  Mother Teresa puts it in a different way: “Do SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL for God. Do it with your life. Do it every day. Do it in your own way. But do it!”

2) We need to accept the invitation to generous sharing. Jesus was so generous that he gave us his very self.  The crucifix is “Exhibit A.”  To follow Jesus, we must have a generous heart and be willing to give our money away in order to express our generosity.  In the heart of every Christian there should be a desire to give.  Martin Luther says that the man who has given his heart to God will also give God his wallet.  God does not have to extort money from those who love him. God does not ask us to give up our riches, but He does ask us to use them wisely in His service.  We must manage our possessions wisely, so that they do not gain control over our hearts. Almsgiving and donations to charities are no longer the only way to use wealth for the common good, or perhaps the most advisable. There is also honesty in paying one’s taxes, to create new jobs, to give a more generous salary to workers when the situation allows it, to initiate local enterprises in developing countries. Let us also ask the question: “How do I use my talents?”  God gives us talents.  Hence, they are not really ours.  He lends them to us to be used in this world.  How do we use our talents?  What about time – do we use it for God?  We each get 168 hours every week.  How do we use our time?  Are we too busy to pray each day?

3) “You are lacking one thing.”  We all have something in our lives that serves as a major obstacle to happiness and peace.  We must recognize this obstacle and address it head-on.  It may not be riches — it may be anger, holding grudges, alcohol, drugs, lust, apathy, lies, unfaithfulness, theft, or fraud.  Let us invite God into our lives and into our efforts to face and remove that one obstacle to holiness.  We have a decision to make: whether to go away sad like the rich young man, or to follow Jesus and be happy.  Let us choose happiness.

4) We need to follow Jesus on his terms, and not on our terms.  This involves giving up whatever in our lives leads us to evil.  That’s step one.  Sometimes it may involve giving up things which are good.  As parents, we might consider all the time and personal recreation and relaxation (all good things), which we have given up over the years for the sake of the children.  As a mother or father who is also  a disciple of Jesus Christ, this was required of us, and we made the sacrifice.  When we follow Jesus on his terms, there may be certain crosses to bear, but deep down in the core of our being there is peace, and there is joy, because we know that we are doing our best to carry out God’s perfect will in our lives.

JOKE OF THE WEEK

#1: “Oh Lord, hit him again!” The parish church was badly in need of repair.  So the pastor called a special meeting to raise funds.  At the assembly, the pastor explained the need of an emergency fund for plastering the roof and supporting pillars and for carrying out other items of repair.  He invited the congregation to pledge contributions. After a brief pause, Mr. Murphy, the richest man in the parish, volunteered to give 50 dollars.  Just as he sat down, a hunk of plaster fell from the ceiling on his head.  He jumped up, looked terribly startled and said: “I meant to say 500 dollars.”  The congregation stood silent and stunned.  Then a lone voice cried out from the back: “Oh Lord, hit him again!”

#2: Andrew Carnegie made millions in the steel industry. He worked hard helping the poor and underprivileged. Once a socialist came to see him in his office and soon was railing against the injustice of Carnegie having so much money. In his view, wealth was meant to be divided equally. Carnegie asked his secretary for an assessment of everything he owned and at the same time looked up the figures on world population. He did a little arithmetic on a pad and then said to his secretary. “Give this gentleman l6 cents. That’s his share of my money. 

# 3: A wealthy older gentleman had just recently married a lovely young lady and was beginning to wonder whether she might have married him for his money. So, he asked her, “Tell me the truth: if I lost all my money, would you still love me?” She said reassuringly, “Oh honey, don’t be silly. Of course, I would still love you. And I’d miss you terribly.”

WEBSITES OF THE WEEK

# 1: Resources for parish catechesis:   http://www.blestarewe.com/index.cfm #2: Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter – International Website: http://www.fssp.org/

# 3: Catholic Information Center on Internet: http://www.catholic.net/

# 4: What the church teaches: http://www.osv.com/

# 5: http://www.faithfirst.com/pdfs/TH%20C%20Parenting%20Rituals.R1.pdf

# 6: Text Week homilies: http://www.textweek.com/mkjnacts/mark10b.htm

# 7: Sermons & liturgies: http://bki.net/sermonB.html

JOKES OF THE WEEK

#1: “Oh Lord, hit him again!” The parish church was badly in need of repair.  So the pastor called a special meeting to raise funds.  At the assembly, the pastor explained the need of an emergency fund for plastering the roof and supporting pillars and for carrying out other items of repair.  He invited the congregation to pledge contributions. After a brief pause, Mr. Murphy, the richest man in the parish, volunteered to give 50 dollars.  Just as he sat down, a hunk of plaster fell from the ceiling on his head.  He jumped up, looked terribly startled and said: “I meant to say 500 dollars.”  The congregation stood silent and stunned.  Then a lone voice cried out from the back: “Oh Lord, hit him again!”

#2: Andrew Carnegie made millions in the steel industry. He worked hard helping the poor and underprivileged. Once a socialist came to see him in his office and soon was railing against the injustice of Carnegie having so much money. In his view, wealth was meant to be divided equally. Carnegie asked his secretary for an assessment of everything he owned and at the same time looked up the figures on world population. He did a little arithmetic on a pad and then said to his secretary. “Give this gentleman l6 cents. That’s his share of my money.

 # 3: A wealthy older gentleman had just recently married a lovely young lady and was beginning to wonder whether she might have married him for his money. So, he asked her, “Tell me the truth: if I lost all my money, would you still love me?” She said reassuringly, “Oh honey, don’t be silly. Of course, I would still love you. And I’d miss you terribly.”

WEBSITES OF THE WEEK

# 1: Resources for parish catechesis:   http://www.blestarewe.com/index.cfm #2: Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter – International Website: http://www.fssp.org/

# 3: Catholic Information Center on Internet: http://www.catholic.net/

# 4: What the church teaches: http://www.osv.com/

# 5: http://www.faithfirst.com/pdfs/TH%20C%20Parenting%20Rituals.R1.pdf

# 6: Text Week homilies: http://www.textweek.com/mkjnacts/mark10b.htm

# 7: Sermons & liturgies: http://bki.net/sermonB.html

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle B no. 52 by Fr. Tony (akadavil@gmail.com)

 

28 Additional anecdotes: 1) “Take back your coins and give back my songs.” The French have a story about a millionaire, who spent his days counting his gold coins.  Beside his palace was a poor cobbler who spent his days singing as he repaired people’s shoes.  The joyful singing irritated the rich man.  One day he decided to give some gold coins to the cobbler.  At first the cobbler was overjoyed, and he took the coins and hid them.  But then he worried about the coin and was constantly going back to make sure the coins were still there.  Then he worried in case someone had seen him and might steal the coins.  Consequently, he ceased to sing.  Then one day he realized that he had ceased to sing because of the gold coins.  He took them back to the rich man and said, “Take back your coins and give me back my songs.”  Inordinate attachment to riches can take away our freedom and joy. (Gerry Pierse, Detachment and Freedom).

2) A challenge to make a real commitment: James Lallam tells this amusing story in one of his writings. Years ago, a young door-to-door salesman was assigned a rural area. One day he came upon a farmer seated in a rocking chair on his front porch. The young man went up to the farmer enthusiastically and said, “Sir, I have a book here that will tell you how to farm ten times better than you are doing now.” The farmer didn’t bother to look up. He simply kept on rocking. Finally, after a few minutes, he glanced up at the young salesman and said, “Young man, I don’t need your book. I already know how to farm ten times better than I am doing now.” The story is a good illustration of what Jesus was talking about in today’s Gospel. The farmer was capable of farming better, but he lacked the commitment to do so. The rich young man was also capable of doing more than just keeping the commandments, but he too lacked the commitment to do so. (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). 

3) “There was no other way for me to keep my loincloth.” There is a story about an old monk who has been mentoring a young disciple. Believing that he has the ability to be on his own, the monk allows the boy to live in a lean-to near the river bank. Each night, happy as a lark, the young disciple puts out his loincloth, his only possession, to dry. One morning he is dismayed to find that it has been torn to shreds by rats. So he begs for a second loincloth from the villagers. When the rats come to destroy that one, he gets a cat to keep the rats away. But now he has to beg not only for food but also for milk for the cat. To get around that, he buys a cow. But then he has to seek food for the cow. He concludes, finally, that it would be easier to work the land around his hut, so he leaves off his prayers and meditations, and commits himself to growing crops to feed the cow. The operation expands. He hires workers. He marries a wife who keeps the household running smoothly. Pretty soon he is one of the wealthiest people in the village. Several years later the monk comes back to find a mansion where the lean-to had been. “What is the meaning of this?” the monk asks. The disciple replies, “Holy Father, there was no other way for me to keep my loincloth.” (http://www.salemquincy.org/steve/00sermon/00b.prp23.htm )

4)   The monk and the jewels: A monk was lost in meditation at a river bank.  A rich man offered him two exquisite jewels.  As soon as the devotee left, the monk picked up the jewels and threw one of them into the river.  One of his disciples immediately jumped into the river.  But he could not find the jewel.  The disciple asked the monk to point out the spot where the jewel had fallen.  The monk picked up the second jewel and tossed it into the river, and said, “Right there.” The monk then added, “Do not allow yourself to be owned by objects.  Only then will you be free.”  Like the disciple of the monk, the wealthy gentleman in today’s Gospel story had an inordinate love for his possessions.

5) Dear Abby: A few years ago, an interchange of letters appeared in a nationally syndicated newspaper column. Dear Abby: We are not overly religious people, but we do like to go to Church once in a while. It seems to me that every time we turn around, we are hit for money. I thought religion was free. I realize that churches have to have some money, but I think it is getting to be a racket. Just what do Churches do with all their money? Curious in North Jersey. Abby wrote back, Dear Curious: Even priests, ministers and rabbis must eat. Since they work full-time at their tasks, their Churches must support them. Staff and musicians must also be paid. Buildings must be maintained, heated, lighted and beautified. Custodial staff members must eat and feed their families. Most Churches engage in philanthropic work (aid to the needy, missions, and education); hence, they have their financial obligations. Even orchids, contrary to folklore, do not live on air. Churches can’t live on air either. Religions, like water, may be free, but when they pipe it to you, you’ve got to help pay for the piping. And the piper. [Abigail Van Buren, “Religions need money too, for Heaven’s sake,” The Scranton Tribune (30 March 1994) C-2.]

6) Suicide is directly proportional to wealth. Writer and Speaker Matthew Kelly notes that the suicide rate among teens and young adults has increased by 5,000 percent in the last fifty years. More troubling, it is becoming increasingly apparent that suicide is directly proportional to wealth. What does that mean? Studies reveal that the more money you have, the more likely you are to take your own life. Peter Kreeft captured the alarming reality in a recent article of his own: “The richer you are, the richer your family is, and the richer your country is, the more likely it is that you will find life so good that you will choose to blow your brains out.” Economics, says Matthew Kelly, is clearly not a good measure of happiness. [Matthew Kelly, The Rhythm of Life (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999).] We know that. But how can we disentangle ourselves from the social pressures as well as the inner greed that causes us to fill our lives with material things? Jesus has the answer in today’s Gospel.

7) Destined to drown with his treasure: There is an old story about an 18th century man who was moving overseas.  His life’s savings of gold and silver coins were carried in a big money belt he wore around his waist.  The ship hit an iceberg and started to go down.  It was sinking so fast that many people had to jump in the water and swim to the lifeboats already launched.  The man jumped in, but because he could not bear the thought of leaving that heavy money belt behind, he went to the bottom of the sea.  The story ends with this haunting question: “Would you say that this man had his money, or that his money had him?”  Jesus tells the story of such a man in today’s Gospel.

8) Are you a Faust? The legend of Faust has become part of our heritage. Faust was a man who longed for romance, academic success, and wealth. Unable to find these on his own, he made a pact with the devil. If he could be granted his wishes, have his true worth made public and enjoy its fruits, then he would give his soul to the devil. Sure enough, he enjoyed marvelous romances, fabulous successes, and much wealth. Oddly enough, when the time came, he was unwilling to sustain his part of the bargain. I wonder if there is a parallel here. We put Jesus off, promising, “Just one more of this and one more of that — then I will be willing to go with you, Jesus.” Are we not like little Fausts, wanting to have it our way? After all, we say, we deserve it! And what do we say to Jesus when he comes to claim us? Today’s Gospel story about the rich, young man gives us a strong warning. (Thomas Peterson in The Needle’s Eye)

9) The Success Syndrome:  Harvard Medical School psychologist Steven Berglas has written a book called The Success Syndrome. He has found that individuals who in his word “suffer” from success have arrogance and a sense of aloneness. Insider-trader Dennis Levine was asked by his wife why he needed the money from insider-trading, and he really had no answer. Levine says that when his income was $100,000, he hungered for $200,000, and when he was making $1 million, he hungered for $3 million. Berglas says that oddly enough people who found that $200,000 did not make them happy, never asked themselves why they thought $300,000 would make them happy. Asked to prescribe a cure for the success syndrome, Berglas said, “What’s missing in these people (Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken, Leona Helmsley), is deep commitment or religious activity that goes far beyond just writing a check to a charity.” [James W. Fowler, Becoming Adult, Becoming Christian (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1984), p. 88.]

10) The Midas touch: The ancient Greeks understood this. According to one of their myths, the god Dionysus offered King Midas whatever his heart desired. Without hesitation, King Midas exclaimed, “I wish that everything I touch be turned into gold!” And so it was. Midas was overjoyed. He drew up a handful of sand and it turned into gold dust. He picked up a stone and it turned into gold. He touched a leaf and it was gold. “Ah, I will become the richest man in the world, the happiest man in the world.” He danced all the way back to his home and announced to his servants, “Prepare a banquet. We will celebrate my good fortune.” But as the bread touched his tongue it turned into gold and as the wine touched his lips it turned into gold. The king became more dismayed the hungrier he got. And as he reached out to his beautiful daughter for solace, she, alas, was also turned into gold. And Midas cursed his gift and himself for his foolishness.

11) Money does not give happiness: Andrew Carnegie was one of the richest men of his time.  He was also very generous. Perhaps he explained his generosity when he said, “Millionaires seldom smile.” We are told, by the way, that Carnegie practically became allergic to money as he grew richer and older. He was offended, he said, just by the sight and touch of money, and never carried any. Because he had no money with him with which to pay the fare, Carnegie was once put off a London tram. Did money solve the problems of Howard Hughes or Aristotle Onassis? They died two of the world’s most miserable men. Why invest your life in something that will only rot or rust? Why invest in something that will someday be left behind? Why invest in something that cannot of its own self bring you peace of mind? Study after study has shown that money is not the key to happiness. In a recent survey of 52,000 men and women, most of whom were in the upper economic brackets, money ranked thirteenth out of sixteen possible sources of happiness for married women. With married men, money ranked tenth. It was ninth with single women; seventh with single men.

12) “I knew I should have put it in the basement instead of the attic.” An old mountaineer was on his deathbed. He called his wife to him. “Elviry,” he said, “go to the fireplace and take out that loose stone under the mantle.” She did as instructed, and behind that loose stone she found a shoe box crammed full of cash. “That’s all the money I’ve saved through the years,” said the mountaineer. “When I go, I’m goin’ to take it with me. I want you to take that there box up to the attic and set it by the window. I’ll get it as I go by on my way to heaven.” His wife followed his instructions. That night, the old mountaineer died. Several days after the funeral, his wife remembered the shoe box. She climbed up to the attic. There it was, still full of money, sitting by the window. “Oh,” she thought, “I knew it. I knew I should have put it in the basement instead of the attic.”
As someone has said, “We can’t take it with us, but we can send it on ahead.”

13) Earth-bound or Heaven-sent? Here are two persons whose deaths made the papers. The first was a woman who died in London. Her obituary was long, with a picture and bold headline. She was known as the best-dressed woman in Europe. She had over a thousand dresses. But, said Luccock, “in each dress she had the same unseeing eyes, the same deaf ears, the same enameled, painted face.” The second death was also in London. This man’s obituary was short; there was no picture. He owned but one suit, blue with a red collar on the coat. He was William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army. The wealthy woman invested in clothes; not worth much from an eternal perspective. Mr. Booth invested in Kingdom commodities. Now he is enjoying the glories of Heaven while his earthly heritage–the Salvation Army–goes marching on in the name of Jesus. Where are your key investments? Earth-bound or Heaven-sent? Wherever your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The heavier the purse, the tighter the strings.

14) “In God We Trust.” The year was 1861. Our nation was engaged in a bloody civil war. Then Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase sent a letter which, in part, said, “No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people should be declared on our national coins.” So originated the words “In God We Trust” on American currency. Why? Because what’s impossible for you and me is totally within the realms of possibility for God, for with God nothing is impossible. Even rich people can get in the Kingdom of God if they have the good will to share their wealth with the needy. Thank God for His grace. That’s the good news in today’s Gospel.

15) “We’ll be quiet and just watch.” Maya Angelou tells about her Aunt Tee who worked as a housekeeper for a couple in Bel Air, California. She lived with the couple in their spacious fourteen-room ranch house. They were a very quiet couple. As they had gotten older they had stopped entertaining their friends and even spoke less to each other. “Finally,” Maya says, “they sat in a dry silence.” Aunt Tee, on the other hand, enjoyed entertaining her friends on Saturday evenings. She would cook a pot of pig’s feet, a pot of greens, fry chicken, make potato salad, and make banana pudding for her friends to feast upon. And they would have a marvelous time together. There was always plenty of laughter coming from Aunt Tee’s room. One Saturday as they were playing cards, the old couple called her. “Theresa, we don’t mean to disturb you…” the man whispered, “but you all seem to be having such a good time…” The woman added, “We hear you and your friends laughing every Saturday night, and we’d just like to watch you. We don’t want to bother you. We’ll be quiet and just watch.” At that moment they both won Aunt Tee’s sympathy forever. She agreed to allow them to watch her and her friends. It was a sad situation, since the couple owned the spacious house, complete with swimming pool and three cars, but they had no joy in their lives. “Money and power can liberate only if they are used to do so,” Maya reflects. “They can imprison and inhibit more, finally, than barred windows and iron chains.” [Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now, (New York: Random House, 1993), pp. 62-64.]

16) Who is he? He’s rich. Italian shoes. Tailored suit. His money is invested. His plastic is platinum. He lives the way he flies, first class. He’s young. He pumps away fatigue at the gym and slam-dunks old age on the court. His belly is flat, his eyes sharp. Energy is his trademark, and death is an eternity away. He’s powerful. If you don’t think so, just ask him. You got questions? He’s got answers. You got problems? He’s got solutions. You got dilemmas? He’s got opinions. He knows where he’s going, and he’ll be there tomorrow. He’s the new generation. So the old had better pick up the pace or pack their bags. He has mastered the three “Ps” of life today. Prosperity. Posterity. Power. [http://bethelfortsmith.org/pages/sermons/2000/sept1000.]  Who is he? He is the top salesman in his district, making it up the career ladder. She is the rising lawyer who was just made a partner at her prestigious law firm. He’s the successful real estate broker who has more listings than he can handle-except he can handle them just fine. In today’s Gospel, he is the rich young man who came to Jesus with a question.

17) Affluenza:  Back in the year 2000 the New York Times ran an article describing the disease of “affluenza.” They made it up, but I think it is a great word. Affluenza—the sudden wealth syndrome, the disease everyone would like to have. Affluenza is a dysfunctional or unhealthy relationship with money or wealth or the pursuit of it. If you shrink the world’s population to a village of 100 people then here is what you have: Fifty-seven would be Asians, twenty-one Europeans, fourteen Westerners, eight Africans, fifty-one female, forty-nine male, seventy nonwhite, thirty white, seventy non-Christian and thirty would-be Christian, but 50% of the entire world’s wealth would be in the hands of six people and all six would be citizens of the U.S. Of that hundred people, eighty would be living in substandard housing. Seventy would be unable to read. Fifty would be suffering from malnutrition.  One would have a college education. Lest we think the Bible is silent on the subject of money, I remind you that the Bible says more about economics than any other social issue. 1. Proverbs 11:28 says, “He who trusts in his riches shall wither.” 2. Matthew 6:9 says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth.” 3. In Luke 16:3, Jesus says, “You cannot serve God and  mammon.” 4. In I Timothy 3:3 Paul says, “A bishop should not be a lover of money.” Today’s Gospel is Jesus’ teaching on riches. It’s not money, but the misuse of money that is the root of all evil. Abraham, Job, David, and Solomon were very rich men. They managed large holdings for the glory of God and the greater public good. Lydia and Deborah were very wealthy women, and God used them to build His Church and govern His Kingdom

18) Exaggerated self-importance: A small passenger plane was cruising through the sky, carrying as its passengers a minister, a Boy Scout, and the president of a computer manufacturing firm. Suddenly, the engine went dead. Frantically, parachutes were passed among the passengers. There was fast breathing, a rush of wind as the door was thrown open. And as the plane tilted and fell through space, there came the horrible realization that there were not enough parachutes. There was one too few. “I have to have a parachute,” cried the pilot. “I have a wife and three kids.” So, he grabbed a parachute, put in on and leaped into the void. The wind whistled, and the three passengers looked at one another. “Well I certainly should have one of the parachutes,” exclaimed the computer manufacturer. “I’m the smartest man in the world.” And slipping his arms into the shoulder straps, he jumped out. “Son,” said the minister wistfully, “you take the last parachute. I’m old and ready to meet my Maker; you’re a fine youth with all your life ahead of you.” “Relax, Reverend,” said the Boy Scout with a smile. “There’s still a parachute for each of us. The smartest man in the world’ just jumped out wearing my backpack.”  Today’s Gospel explains the foolishness of the rich who are unwilling to share their blessings with the needy. (‘Quote’ – Magazine). 

19) Do all the good you can: Henry Thoreau said, “Be not merely good; be good for something.” That was Jesus’ challenge to the man who wanted to know what he could do to inherit eternal life. He had been good at making money, in being morally upright and keeping the commandments; but that is not the ultimate good: he must also give of himself and what he has in behalf of others. He needed to also realize that, “The gift without the giver is bare.” John Wesley proposed an excellent guide to goodness. He said, and he practiced what he preached: “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, At all the times you can, As long as ever you can.” Someone else has expressed the ideal of goodness in a wonderful way, saying, “I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore, that I can do, or any goodness that I can show to my fellow creatures, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” (Clement E. Lewis, When It’s Twilight Time) Fr. Tony Kayala.

20) And his face fell: A college’s star baseball player went up to Jesus and asked: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “Go to the local playground and help set up an after-school program for kids at risk.” The baseball star’s face fell, and he went away sad, because his focus was on the making it to the majors. The owner of a small business asked Jesus: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said, “Go and create job opportunities for those who have lost their jobs and whose families are struggling. “The business owner’s face fell, and he went away sad, because he was barely keeping his own company going. A woman who had just buried her sister who had died of cancer asked Jesus: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” With great compassion for her, Jesus said, “Go, put aside your grief for your dear sister, and give your time to help raise money for cancer research.” The woman’s face fell, and she went away sad, because the loss of her sister was still too painful. We know how the rich young man feels in today’s Gospel.  Yes, Jesus asks everything of us as the cost of being his disciple — but Jesus asks only what we have, not what we don’t have.  Each one of us possesses talents and resources, skills and assets that we have been given by God for the work of making the kingdom of God a reality in the here and now. (Fr. Tony Kayala).

21) Prayer of Thomas Merton: Prayer of Thomas Merton: “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this You will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, will I trust You always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.” (Fr. Tony Kayala).

22) Give me your spirit of detachment: A story is told of a poor beggar who lived on alms he received from begging. One day on his begging rounds, he came upon a holy man, who was lost in prayer, sitting in seclusion in the forest. Approaching the holy man, the beggar asked for alms. Without a second thought the holy man put his hand into his pocket took out a large precious stone and gave it to the beggar. The beggar could not believe his eyes. Before the holy man could change his mind, the beggar disappeared from the scene holding on to the jewel for dear life. He clutched it so tightly his hands hurt. All along the way, he was suspicious of everyone and reached his hut tense and worried. Once inside his hut he locked himself and was sure that some would come to attack him. He could not sleep at night for a moment for fear of losing the stone. He got up in the morning a mental wreck, exhausted, tense and worried. What was he going to do with this precious stone? He could not mix with others even of his own family lest they ask for it. Finally, he hurried to the holy man in the forest and quickly gave back the stone. The Holy man asked him why he was returning the precious stone. The beggar replied. “I don’t want the stone it is ruining my life. But I want something else from you. When I asked you for alms, without a second thought you parted with that precious stone. Can you give me that spirit of detachment? Then I will be happy whether I have or don’t have anything!”
(Anonymous; quoted by Fr. Botelho). 

23) Jean Vanier’s L’Arche home for the retarded: Jean Vanier is internationally recognized as a humanitarian because of his care for the retarded. The son of a former Governor General of Canada, he served for a while as an officer of the Canadian Navy and later taught at the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto. But he left behind all his family’s wealth and comfortable life style to establish a family-type home for the retarded, which he named L’Arche. His hope was that it would be an Ark of refuge for the retarded in a hostile world. Under Jean Vanier’s inspiration, homes similar to L’Arche have sprung up all over the world. Jean Vanier is like a modern-day St. Francis of Assisi who has taken literally our Lord’s words in today’s Gospel. “If you want to be perfect, if you want to be happy, there is one more thing you must do. Go sell what you have and give to the poor, then come follow me.” (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). 

24) The Happy Saint: As compared to the rich young man in the Gospels, there is a rich, glad youth revered by people of all faiths, worldwide. Born in Assisi and baptized ‘Giovanni’, his wealthy father, a cloth merchant, added the name ‘Francesco’ and wanted him to inherit the family business. But young Francesco took Jesus’ words seriously. Not only did he hand over his inheritance and fine attire to the poor, but he also embraced ‘Lady Poverty’ lifelong to give himself fully to God. The novel by Felix Timmerman,  The Perfect Joy of St. Francis is one of the finest books ever written. Was Francis of Assisi poor? Rich? One thing is sure: he was never sad.
Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). 

25) Challenge to overcome an obstacle: In June 1997, basketball enthusiasts were thrilled to witness as an obviously flu-stricken Michael Jordan pulled himself from his sickbed to rally his fading energies and lead his Chicago Bulls team to a stunning victory over the Utah Jazz. Stricken with a virus and unable to stand on his own at the end of the game, Jordan had once more borne witness to his conviction that “obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it or work around it.” For Jordan, on that night in June of 1997, the obstacle, the wall that stood in his way, and that he worked around, was illness. Today’s Gospel also features a young and gifted man who was challenged to overcome an obstacle. No doubt, his was an obstacle with which many of us would like to be burdened, viz., riches. Unfortunately, the young man was not up to the invitation Jesus extended to him. His riches stood between him and a share in everlasting life. Whether or not he eventually overcame his attachment to his wealth and opted to follow Jesus is not ours to know. Suffice it to say, the rich man’s experience, and others like it, should cause us to consider what stands between me and God. . . what obstacle hinders me from becoming all that I have been called to be? (Patricia Datchuck Sánchez). (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2os-hfXSUlA)

26) The miraculously widened eye of the needle: There is an interesting expansion of this story in the apocryphal Acts of Peter and Andrew, probably written in the late second or early third century. The text says that, when Peter preached on this teaching, a certain local merchant by the name of Onesiphorus became enraged with him and physically attacked him, saying, “Truly you are a sorcerer … for a camel cannot go through the eye of a needle”. Peter ordered a needle to be brought (refusing a large, wide-eyed needle that someone had offered, hoping to help him). “And after the needle had been brought, and all of the multitude of the city was standing around watching, Peter looked up and saw a camel coming, and ordered her to be brought. Then he fixed the needle in the ground and cried out with a loud voice, saying: ‘In the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, I order you, O camel, to go through the eye of the needle’. Then the eye of the needle was opened like a gate, and the camel went through it, and all the multitude saw it.” (Dr. Murray Watson)

27) Wise rich people: In history we see many people who used their wealth as means to glorifying God. Joseph Leek left nearly $1.8 million to an organization that provides guide dogs for the blind, and nobody, not even his own family, had any idea that he had that kind of money. The 90-year-old Britisher lived like a pauper. He watched television at a neighbor’s house to save on electricity, put off home repairs, and bought second-hand clothes. Rev. Vertrue Sharp raised hay and cattle preached and taught, while saving every penny he made. When he died in 1999, he left an estate of $2 million to the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, the University of Tennessee Medical Center, and other charities. English spinster, Mary Guthrie Essame was a retired nurse who lived in an old Victorian house and who clad herself in such worn clothes and old shoes that no one knew how well off she was. Neighbours were shocked to learn that her estate amounted to a whopping $10 million when she died in January 2002. (The money was left to a host of charities.). Benjamin Guggenheim, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was an heir in the wealthy Guggenheim family. He took up the family mining business, gaining the nickname “Silver Prince”. Following a trip to Europe, he decided to sail on the maiden voyage of the Titanic. Late on the night of April 14, the Titanic struck an iceberg and began to sink. Guggenheim and his secretary dressed in their finest evening clothes and assisted women and children with getting on the lifeboats. He told a crew member that “we’ve dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.” Guggenheim asked a crew member to deliver a message to his wife Florette. “If anything should happen to me, tell my wife in New York that I’ve done my best in doing my duty.” Jesus’ challenge to the young man exposed two missing pieces in the rich man’s life: a sense of compassion for the poor and the willingness to share his blessings with the needy. (Fr. Bobby Jose).

28) #3: The sin of over-consumption: Instead of glaring accusingly at those countries struggling to control their population growth, we must squarely attack the monster we ourselves have let ravage the world. On average, a U.S. citizen causes over 100 times more damage to the global environment than a person in a poor country. The average North American consumes five times more than a Mexican, 10 times more than a Chinese person and 30 times more than a person in India. The richest 25 percent of the world’s population use 86 percent of all forest products, 75 percent of energy, 72 percent of steel production. The poorest use only two percent of the world’s resources. Workers in the developed world (North America, Western Europe and Japan), represent about 20 percent of the world’s population. They use over 67 percent of the natural resources consumed each year and generate over 80 percent of its pollutants. For added perspective, the poorest 20 percent consume about two percent of resources. (Editorial by Director of Green Cross Fred Krueger in Green Cross, 1, Fall 1995.) Hence, economists like to call consumerism “The Jones Effect” (as in “keeping up with the Joneses”). Others, like Pope St. John Paul II, call consumerism one of those “structures of sin” named “super-development,” which the pope defined as “an excessive availability of material goods for the benefit of certain social groups” [“Pope John Paul II Addresses Over-consumption,” Green Cross, 2 (Summer 1996), 4.] In his 1990 World Day of Peace statement, “The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility,” Pope St. John Paul II tied “super-development” to our polluting and pillaging of the environment, and stated most emphatically, “The ecological crisis is a moral issue.”L/18
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle B (No 54) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit my website: http://frtonyshomilies.com/for missed homilies, previous Cycle B homilies, 141 Year of FaithAdult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 196 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily.

Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604.