27 May, 2013. Monday of the Eighth Week
Sir 17:19ff. Repent from sin while you are still alive. The dead cannot praise God.
Mk 10:17ff. Go and sell what you possess and come follow me. For 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.”
Living life to the full, in the present moment
Sirach offers a glimpse of the state of Israelite religion around two hundred years before Christ. A traditionalist teacher, 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. His theological stance is that of the Sadducee priesthood who even in the days of Jesus and Paul continued to deny the resurrection. In no way interested in life after death, Sirach’s mind is concentrated 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?” He is perhaps closer to the truth in what he affirms about life than in what he denies. 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.
Some Old Testament believers dared to leap beyond this earth’s horizons with a clear belief in life after death (Dan 12 and in 2 Macc 7). Yet they did not develop the consequences of faith in the resurrection. For this we must turn to the New Testament, to 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).
He calls his closest followers to a life of self-giving and self-denial. This type of life is humanly impossible… but with God “all things are possible.”