Reflection for Sunday October 11 – Deirdre McKiernan Hetzler

Readings: Wisdom 7:7-11, Hebrews 4:12-13, Mark 10:17-30

Recently, there was a story in the news about a young entrepreneur who announced that he was raising all the salaries of his employees to match his own—$70,000!

A few months earlier, a college president had announced he was cutting his salary in order to give all college employees a raise.

An obituary notice in the Democrat and Chronicle last year directed memorials to go to a local homeless shelter, raising thousands of dollars for those who are poor.

These folks reflect the wisdom of our first reading, don’t they? In the eyes of the Jewish people, Solomon was the wisest man they ever knew. Centuries after his death, they are expressing the community’s values by attributing to him these words from the Book of Wisdom. Wisdom is more important than riches of any kind.

Perhaps the rich man hadn’t attained that wisdom yet. In his day, popular belief held that wealth and privilege were signs of God’s approval. Mark’s Jesus rejects the piety of the rich in favor of radical discipleship. Maybe that’s why the disciples were amazed!

“Go, sell what you have and give to the poor. Then, come, follow Me.”
Jesus’ invitation to the rich man in today’s gospel is essentially a call to discipleship. To share Jesus’ values and the alternative wisdom by which he lived. A call spoken out of love.

The rich man has kept all the rules of his religion, but he’s still searching, wondering if there might be something more. Can you and I perhaps relate to that? Jesus looks on him—and on us—with love.

“Go, sell what you have and give to the poor. Then, come, follow Me.”

Jesus’ invitation was too difficult for the rich man. At least, just then. We don’t know the epilogue. Did he reflect on the invitation, perhaps taking another look at his life? At his values? Did he perhaps grow in response to the call? We don’t know what happened to him after this encounter, but we do know one thing. One very important thing. Jesus loved him.

“Go, sell what you have and give to the poor. Then, come, follow Me.”

Pope Francis’ great appeal comes from his response to that call of discipleship, to living as Jesus did. He challenges us, as well, to respond to that call. And he does that while radiating the love and acceptance that Jesus has for each and every one of us.

The continual and consistent theme of Pope Francis’ gospel message, every day, and at the core of each event and moment of his visit here, was about who is most important, who Jesus calls us to value, to encounter, to love, and to never forget.

The word of God is living and active, sharper than a two-edged sword, isn’t it? It cuts right to the heart, challenging us.

Is discipleship simple? Or easy? Not always! Remember that Jesus and the disciples are on the way to Jerusalem and the cross that awaits him. The story of the rich man comes between two predictions of Jesus’ passion. For those who accept the call to follow him, Jesus promises both rewards and trials.

But the good news is that our call to discipleship is a lifelong journey, one in which we can grow. What matters is God’s love for you and me. A love that empowers us to grow and change. The power of God is at work in us. And with God all things are possible.

Deirdre McKiernan Hetzler
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