Saturday, October 10, 2009

But Wait, There's More!

(28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, B)

After our break last week for the feast of St. Francis, we return to our reading in the gospel of St. Mark, and we have a real treasure today in this account of a man who seeks to know from Jesus how he can “inherit eternal life.”

The story is worth breaking down step by step. We first meet the man when he runs up to Jesus and kneels down before him. So right away we see the man in a posture of prayer, kneeling before the Lord, and no different from we ourselves when we come here before the Lord’s sanctuary and kneel before him in the Most Blessed Sacrament. We also note that the man ran. This prayer of his is urgent, and it’s one of the most basic prayers: “Good Teacher, what must I do?” We all know this prayer; I’ll bet that we have all prayed it. For the young who still have to decide what to do with their lives, the prayer has a particularly strong edge, ‘Lord, what should I do? What will be my vocation in this life?’ But the prayer is real for all of us; all the way through life we find ourselves in new situations, in new troubles and joys that push us to prayer, to the seeking of what God means for us to do. This is one of the basic prayers of every human heart: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

The first answer Jesus gives is very plain: “You know the commandments,” he says. The way to salvation is no big secret; it isn’t specialized or arcane knowledge. The commandments are there for us to keep and inherit eternal life. So the man says, “all of these I have observed from my youth.” So what is this man’s problem? If he has kept all of the commandments from his youth, why is running up to the Teacher to ask what he is supposed to do? He seems to have already done what God asks!

Here we arrive at one of the spiritual truths that this gospel passage brings out. Has anyone here ever felt as if she or he wasn’t doing enough for God? You know, not praying enough, not thinking on God enough, not doing enough to live out our faith? I certainly feel that way all the time. I once read something by a retreat director who said that when people go on retreat, the first thing they do is start apologizing for not praying enough, not reflecting adequately on their Christian life, etc. Why do we feel that way? It’s simple: The Love of God is eternal and infinite. Our response to the Love of God, as limited creatures, is never going to live up to God, never going to be adequate to His infinity and eternity.

In fact, the holier we become in this life, the closer we come to the Mystery of God, the more inadequate our own prayer and devotion will feel. That’s why the saints saw themselves as the greatest of sinners. Because they were so close to God, the overwhelming brightness and goodness of God magnified their faults and sins. When people distance themselves from God, they stop caring about their sins. It’s only when we get close to God that we worry about them again.

So, if we ever felt as if our Christian lives or our prayer isn’t what it should be, congratulations! This is a sure sign of some closeness to God! And when we are ready to consent, the Love of God is always ready to invite us into the next step. Notice again one of the little details in the gospel: “Jesus, looking at him, loved him,” and that’s when Jesus invites the man to sell what he has, give to the poor, and to follow him.

When we consent to receive the Love of God, it’s not always ‘warm and fuzzy;’ God’s Love is very challenging! And as we heard, the man found that he wasn’t ready for the next step to which the Love of God invited him. He “went away sad” because of his many possessions. But notice also that it doesn’t say that the man didn’t do it! For all we know he may have regrouped spiritually in prayer, and fulfilled Jesus’ invitation later on. New moments in our spiritual life often seem overwhelming at first, but this is only to teach us to rely upon God’s help as we go forward.

So, as we make our Holy Communion today, may each of us run up to Jesus and kneel before him. Let us meet his loving gaze into our eyes and seek from him the next step into the goodness of God for each of us.


Adoro said...

Thanks, Father, I needed to read this today.

I gave a talk on this passage to RCIA a couple years ago and also pointed out that scripture doesn't say he DIDN'T come back. We never find out what happened to him, officially.

But last January I wrote about this one, and also leave it open, just addressing why he was sad. Still explains a lot for me. (sorry for the shameless plug, feel free to delete):

4narnia said...

great homily, Fr. C! and, i was glad to hear it in person! yes, sometimes i do feel like i'm not doing enough for God-i never realized that this is a sign that we are getting closer to the Mystery of God. i think that the meaning of "selling our possesions" means that we have to take great care in not letting those possessions get in the way of serving God. whether they're actually material things or other activities in life that draw us away from God, these things can't be a stumbling block to following the Lord.i've noticed thst the more we detach from the things of the world, the easer it is to follow and serve God. PEACE! ~tara t~

Jake said...

I've always liked that story; well, "liked" probably isn't the best word. I've always appreciated the truth of that story. Now, that's better.

The guy goes away sad. He's not immediatly healed, and no conventional miracle is performed. But it's difficult to imagine a reality in which the man wasn't changed forever.

I mean, really, we all inadvertently affect each other as we go about day to day life--

I've "went away sad" too many times to count, and will again, I'm almost certain. I confess.

You know, I think I found my way over here from another Catholic's blog, checked out your profile, and had to read a little. I'm glad I did.

Nice homily--

Brother Charles said...

Good to meet you, Jake. Anybody with Tyler Durden for his profile pic is o.k. with me.

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

In spite of a harried travel life, I never miss one of your homilies. They are always elucidating, mathemagenic, and truly instructive. Yes, I know that feeling -- as in nearly 24/7! Thanks for giving me insight into where it is coming from.

nazareth priest said...

Father, this is reminiscent of the "Autobiography of Saint Teresa of Avila"...saw the video on EWTN on Saturday and began to really read her Autobiography since then before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament...powerful....thank you!

Z-man said...

Thanks Bro. Charles for dropping by my Yonkers blog from this past July. Really when it comes to the faith my favorite place of all is right up here in Graymoor on Rte. 9 in Garrison NY 'cept in winter when it gets icy and they close off certain parts. Other place is the Marian Shrine in Stony Pt., Rockland County just off 9W.

Anne said...

This is excellent! You have given me so much encouragement, as this post describes my feelings to a "T"! I always worry that I don't love God enough, that I'm too concerned with my own self and not concerned enough with God. I'm so glad to know that it is normal to feel that way!