28Feb Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Sir 17:19ff. Repent from sin while you are still alive. The dead cannot praise God.

Mark 10:17ff. Go and sell what you possess and come follow me.Humanly it is impossible but with God all things are possible.

Living the Present Moment

The book of Sirach, from which we have been reading, is a fine expression of Israelite religion written around two hundred years before Christ. Sirach taught in a school to train the sons of nobility in proper attitudes and behaviour for all occasions on earth (Sir 51:23). A traditionalist in many ways, he did not accept many of the new ideas that were current, like personal survival after death with reward and punishment in the next life. He took his theological stand close to the Sadducee priesthood who even in the days of Jesus and Paul continued to deny the resurrection (Matthew 22:23; 1 Cor 15:12). In no way interested in life after death, Sirach concentrates on a good and proper life on earth, asking, “Who in the nether world can glorify the Most High in place of the living who offer their praise?”

“Let us praise him the Lord the more, since we cannot fathom him, for greater is he than all his works… For who can see him and describe him? or who can praise him as he is? Beyond these, many things lie hidden; only a few of his works have we seen” (Sir 43:33,34). Sirach is perhaps closer to the truth in what he affirmed about life than in what he denied. In his testimony to life, earthly existence and human language failed to communicate the sweep and vision of his heart, stirred enthusiastically by God’s Spirit.

The Old Testament dared to leap beyond this earth’s horizons in Dan 12 and in 2 Macc 7, with a clear enough statement about life after death. Yet these Scriptures did not develop all the consequences of faith in the resurrection. For this we must turn to the New Testament. The first Epistle of Peter is one of the most optimistic documents in the New Testament, letting the full glory of the Risen Jesus shine out. He writes how this glory transforms us from within, we who have been reborn by a rebirth to an imperishable inheritance incapable of fading or defilement. It is thought that the core of First Peter was a baptismal liturgy of the early church. Through baptism we begin a new life, the glorious life of Jesus, a source of extraordinary joy and strength now, a pledge of what is “to be revealed in the last days.”

This same epistle unmistakably echoes the message of the Gospel, where we read not only of Jesus’ resurrection but also of his trials. The author speaks of faith being purified and that this is a cause for rejoicing. At this point we hear the words of Jesus: My children. How hard it is to enter the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. The riches and talents of life can destroy us unless they are surrendered completely in adoration of God and in the service of our family and neighbour. That paradoxical statement of Jesus comes back to haunt us: “Whoever loses his life will save it” (Mark 8:35).

Our talents must be reduced to that very fragile root of existence where life begins and is sustained by God’s Holy Spirit, where our finest intuitions occur, and where we will survive beyond the time of all of our accomplishments. This type of life is humanly impossible… but with God “all things are possible.”

First Reading: Sirach 17:20-24

Their iniquities are not hidden from him, and all their sins are before the Lord.

One’s almsgiving is like a signet ring with the Lord, and he will keep a person’s kindness like the apple of his eye.

Afterward he will rise up and repay them, and he will bring their recompense on their heads.

Yet to those who repent he grants a return, and he encourages those who are losing hope.

Gospel: Mark 10:17-27

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.'” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”