Wis 7:7-11; Heb 4:12-13; Mk 10:17-30
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
I have been teaching courses on Catholic Morality for almost thirty years. And in almost every instance whenever I inform people that Catholic social justice teaching states that the right to private ownership is limited – meaning that we owe our surplus wealth to the poor not out of Charity but out of Justice – I get a roomful of icy stares. Who is this Communistic-Socialistic-Anarchical madman who seems intent on bringing down the entire American way of life?
Well, I think it’s a bit too early yet for the final word on whether or not I’m crazy. But I’m definitely in good company. In this week’s gospel, Jesus says, to the complete and utter shock of his disciples (who are probably giving HIM icy stares) that “I is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.” There seems to be something inherent in the nature of wealth that draws us towards selfishness and away from a sense of solidarity with our less fortunate sisters and brothers in the human family.
As I am writing these words I feel a chill pass through my soul. Or perhaps it is the icy fingers of hypocrisy. Here I sit, typing on my new computer in my very nice upper middle class home surrounded by all of the creature comforts that go with that life-style. Do I really want to think about the implications of what Jesus is saying and of how I’m living? Am I planning on making any radical downward changes in my standard of living?
The answer to both of those questions is a pretty definite “No”. Yet ponder and pray about Jesus’ words I must. I do so not for the purpose of plunging myself into a pit of all encompassing solipsistic guilt that never leads to reform but only to depression (We Catholics have a knack for this, no?). I allow this “two-edged sword” to cut deeply into my heart and soul in the belief that through this openning the Holy Spirit will enter and begin to move things around, drawing that line between surplus and necessity just a bit tighter so that I come to see that I need less than I thought I did. This transformation, plus a nice dolop of divinely infused generosity, might just move me one more step away from the rich man whose entrance into the Kingdom is so difficult towards the child Jesus spoke of last week who receives the Kingdom with ease.
So here’s the question I invite all of us to ponder this week: How much of my stuff do I really need? What is the surplus – of time, talent and treasure – that I have been called to give to those who need it?
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)