October 8, 2021

Christ the Cornerstone

Let us be generous with the gifts God has given us

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” (Mk 10:21).

The Gospel reading for the Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Mk 10:17-30) spells out for us in plain language the cost of discipleship: If we want to inherit eternal life, we must sell everything we have, give it to the poor, and then follow Jesus.

It’s a remarkable statement to which Jesus adds, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mk 10:23) No wonder

St. Mark tells us that the disciples were “exceedingly astonished” (Mk 10:26) and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?” (Mk 10:26)

Like most of us, the disciples were not wealthy, but they were people who accepted the religious and cultural values of their time and place. Like most of us, they respected wealth and they desired the comfort and security it makes possible, especially when times are tough economically and politically, as they were in Jesus’ time and are in ours today.

Many of the disciples had families they provided for and responsibilities they needed to meet. The idea that they were being asked to sell everything and give it to the poor must have been very difficult for them to understand and accept. 

In response to the question, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus acknowledges the challenges that we who are tied to comfort and security face. For us, it is impossible—like trying to lead a very large animal (a camel) through an exceptionally small opening (the eye of a needle). But for God, Jesus reminds us, all things are possible. What we cannot possibly do all by ourselves, the Holy Spirit helps us to do by the power of God’s grace.

This Sunday’s second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews speaks of our vulnerability, our nakedness, in the sight of God. This can be frightening, especially if we like to think that we have to maintain control over our lives at all times. In fact, little or nothing that we possess, whether material things or spiritual gifts, are really under our control. We are managers (caretakers or stewards ) of all God’s gifts. And, as the Letter to the Hebrews says, in the end we cannot avoid being held accountable for our stewardship of God’s bounty: 

“Brothers and sisters: Indeed the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account” (Heb 4:12–13). 

The fact that we are stewards, and not owners, helps us comprehend what Jesus is telling his disciples (and us) in the Gospel reading for this Sunday’s Mass. Why should we worry about giving up gifts that belong to God in the first place? Why hesitate to share with others, especially the poor, resources of time, talent or treasure that were freely given to us by our exceedingly good and generous God? 

The first reading for the Twenty- Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time from the Book of Wisdom (Wis 7:7-11) confirms the truth that the wisdom of God far outweighs all the gold, silver and priceless gems that we human beings try to accumulate in order to protect ourselves from what we cannot control.

The splendor of God’s wisdom, his truth and love, always outshines what we covet, acquire and then desperately try to hang onto. To let go of our dependence on material things affirms the message that God’s Spirit of wisdom is infinitely safer and more dependable “because the splendor of her never yields to sleep. Yet all good things together came to me in her company, and countless riches at her hands” (Wis 7:10-11).

Most of us are like the man who ran up to Jesus, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mk 10:17) We sincerely want to do what is right, to observe the commandments and to be faithful missionary disciples of Jesus. But like “the rich young man” in the Gospel story, we all have many possessions. We are sorely tempted to hang our heads, walk away sad, and defer our commitment to radical Christian discipleship until another day.

Let us pray for the wisdom to let go of all the things we cling to, all the “many possessions” that get in the way of dedicating ourselves completely (mind, body and spirit) to following Jesus without counting the cost. By ourselves, this kind of surrender is impossible. But God will make it happen if we let him. †

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