28th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (Cycle B)

Readings:
Wisdom 7:7-11
Psalm 90:12-17
Hebrews 4:12-13
Mark 10:17-30

All Scripture passages are from the New American Bible unless designated NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation).  CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).

God's divine plan for mankind is revealed in the two Testaments and that is why we reread and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy.  The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).

The Theme of the Readings: Seeking the Wisdom of God
Our faith is guided by precepts but is founded upon the person of Jesus Christ, the true Wisdom of God.  Jesus is the Wisdom of God whose Spirit was granted to David's son, King Solomon.  In today's First Reading the inspired writer puts his words into the mouth of the young King Solomon when he petitioned God for the gift of wisdom.  In Jesus we encounter the wisdom of the living Word that is the truth of God from whom nothing is concealed and who changes hearts, as the inspired writer of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us in today's Second Reading.

In the Gospel Reading, a rich young man, like Solomon, is seeking what the psalmist calls "wisdom of heart."  He knows that his earthly wealth cannot assure his salvation, and so he asks Jesus what he must do to find eternal life.  Jesus tells the young man to obey the commandments concerning love of neighbor and then, with love, invites the young man to give up everything to follow Him, in essence, asking the young man to fulfill the commandment to love the Lord God above everything else. 

The material is only temporary, but Jesus' blessings are eternal.  Scripture is consistent in its teaching that to obsess on acquiring is to lose and to give is to get.  As Jesus taught, What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?  Or what can one give in exchange for his Life?  For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct (Mt 16:26-27).  The loving invitation Jesus made to the rich young man is the same invitation Jesus makes to us today—to take hold of the Godly wisdom to be willing to give up the world to live fully for Christ and the sake of His Gospel of salvation.  It is a decision that takes courage, but it is a decision that has eternity with Christ as its reward.

The First Reading Wisdom 7:7-11~ The Riches of Wisdom
7 I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.  8 I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her, 9 nor did I liken any priceless gem to her; because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand, and before her, silver is to be accounted mire.  10 Beyond health and comeliness I loved her and I chose to have her rather than the light, because the splendor of her never yields to sleep.  11 Yet all good things together came to me in her company, and countless riches at her hands.

The inspired writer of the Book of Wisdom identifies himself with King Solomon who he says has limits like all human beings despite his exalted state—like all humanity, from king to commoner, mankind's physical life is temporal (verses 1-7).  Solomon was seen as the epitome of the wise man.  He was not born wise, but in humility he petitioned God for wisdom (1 Kng 3:5-14; 5:9-14), and God granted him the spirit of wisdom which he preferred to the trappings of kingship and wealth (verses 7-9).  The psalmist says that spiritual gifts are superior to material things, using 10 comparisons to make that point.

But what does having wisdom mean?  It means allowing oneself to be guided by the commands of God and acknowledging His sovereignty over one's life and all mankind.  Wisdom also includes an understanding of the created world and human nature.  This kind of knowledge leads to the "good things" of verse 11.  In other words, with the fullness of the wisdom that brings one closer to God, life is richer and more complete.  The Church has always taught that there is no disunity between the knowledge of reason and the knowledge of faith.  "Faith intervenes not to abolish reason but to bring human reason to understanding that in these events it is the God of Israel who acts" (John Paul II, Fides et ratio, 16).

Responsorial Psalm 90:12-17 ~ Wisdom of Heart
The response is: "Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!"
12 Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.  13 Return, O LORD!  How long?  Have pity on your servants!
Response:
14 Fill us at daybreak with your kindness, that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.  15 Make us glad, for the day when you afflicted us, for the years when we saw evil.
Response:
16 Let your work be seen by your servants and your glory by their children; 17 and may the gracious care of the LORD our God be ours; prosper the work of our hands for us!  Prosper the work of our hands!
Response:

This is the only psalm attributed to Moses (see verse 3 and compare to Gen 2:7).  The psalmist acknowledges that life is short, and so he asks God for a heart of wisdom to guide the brief span of the days his life (verse 12).  He mourns the fact that it has been a long time since the Theophany of God to His people at Mt. Sinai, and he asks God how much longer the people will have to wait until God returns in some visible form to His servants (verse 13). 

In the meantime, he petitions the Lord to fill His people with His kindness so they will be grateful even for the afflictions of God's divine judgments against them (verses 14-15).  He also asks the Lord to give the people evidence of His works so the people and their children will know that God is still with them (verse 16).  He has confidence that for those who trusts in God there are no bad days because all days are good for serving the Lord.  He ends his prayer by petitioning God's favor in establishing the works of God through the hands of God's people.  Israel was chosen by divine election to be God's holy people and a light to the Gentiles; he asks that they might fulfill that mission as partners in God's plan for salvation history (verses 17). 

The psalmist/Moses' petition for a return of the Lord was granted in the Incarnation and mission of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and His works among men that climaxed in His death, burial, Resurrection, and Ascension; thus fulfilling God's plan to bring salvation to mankind.

The Second Reading Hebrews 4:12-13 ~ The Wisdom of the Living Word
Brothers and sisters: 12 Indeed the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.  13 No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.

The inspired writer, believed by many Church Fathers and modern scholars to be St. Paul, uses the metaphor of the two-edged sword to warn the first generation of Jewish-Christians.  He warns them that nothing can be hidden from God who exposes all human weaknesses and failures.   Their ancestors of the first generation of the Exodus fell into sinful rebellion against God and lost their inheritance in the Promised Land, dying in the desert wasteland.  The "word of God" (verse 12) is a guide and a hope in the fulfillment of God's promises to the faithful of the new generation of the New Covenant people that, if they remain faithful, they will inherit through Jesus the Son eternal rest in the heavenly reality of the true Promised Land. 

It is the living and active Word that judges the hearts and minds of believers who seek "rest" in God: Jesus said, Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke, it will condemn him on the last day, because I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak.  And I know that his commandment is eternal life.  So what I say, I say as the Father told me (Jn 12:48-50).  No one can hide his/her most secret thoughts from God and everyone will have to render a final account when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead.

The Gospel of Mark 10:17-30 ~ Jesus and the Rich Young Man
17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"  18 Jesus answered him, "Why do you call me good?  No one is good but God alone.  19 You know the commandments: 'You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.'"  20 He replied and said to him, "Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth."  21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, "You are lacking in one thing.  Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."  22 At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.  23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!"  24 The disciples were amazed at his words.  So Jesus again said to them in reply, "children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!  25 It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God!"  26 They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, "Then who can be saved?"  27 Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.  All things are possible for God." 28 Peter began to say to him, "We have given up everything and followed you."  29 Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel 30 who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.

This story is found in all three Synoptic Gospels with only slight variations.   The man in the encounter with Christ is described as a "young man" (neaniskos), in Matthew 19:20.   He has been listening to Jesus' teachings and is concerned about his eternal salvation (it is not until verse 22 that we are told he is wealthy).  He has everything he needs to enjoy this earthly life, but he understands that his wealth cannot buy his place in eternity.  The young man does three actions before he asks Jesus his question in verse 3:

  1. He runs up to Jesus
  2. He kneels before Jesus in humble submission
  3. He calls Jesus "good teacher"

And then the question he asks Jesus is what "good" he must do to attain eternal life. 

Jesus' first response to the young man is to answer his question with a question.  He asks him "Why do you call me good?"  Then Jesus tells the young man that "no one is good except God alone"; in other words, Jesus is saying that every man is a sinner.  In His question, Jesus is also subtly asking the young man if he has discerned Jesus' true identity as the only One who is good because He is without sin.  The irony is that the young man is in fact addressing God. 

Next, Jesus answers the young man's question by reminding him that he knows the commandments, meaning the Ten Commandments and the other commands and prohibitions of the Law (verse 19).  Keep in mind that the young man is Jewish and the Old Covenant is still in effect and will continue to be in effect until Jesus' death and Resurrection when the ritual purification law and the ritual of animal sacrifice will be fulfilled but the moral law will remain.  Under the Old Covenant, obedience to the commandments of God was the pathway to life and the moral law was the work of divine Wisdom (CCC 1950).  However, while the Law served as a tutor and a guide, it could not promise eternal salvation nor give the gift of the Holy Spirit; it was a preparation for the Gospel (see Dt 30:16, 20; Ps 119:155, 166-68; and CCC 1963-64).

Jesus then lists six commandments in verse 19 that are found in the Ten Commandments and in the extended teaching on the Law (to defraud was considered theft).  These are not all the Ten Commandments but only some of those commandments dealing with love of neighbor, a command that is part of the Law of the covenant in Leviticus 19:18.  Significantly, Jesus has not included the first three commandments concerning love of God.

20 He replied and said to him, "Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth."
The young man responds that he has lived in accordance with those commandments that Jesus listed.  In Matthew 19:20 the young man asks what is still lacking in his life, suggesting that he understood there was more than mere obedience to the Law to please God.  His answer must have been sincere because St. Mark tells us Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, "You are lacking one thing ... (Mk 10:21).  This is an earnest young man and Jesus sees spiritual potential for him in service to the Kingdom.

21b Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." 
Jesus tells the young man to give up every material possession to the poor and to follow Jesus as a disciple and then he will have "treasure in heaven" as opposed to earthly rewards.  Jesus is making a distinction between obedience to the commandments that show the path to salvation and earthly blessings under the Old Law, and the call to discipleship that gives an even greater eternal reward.  He is also asking the young man to put love of God above earthly comfort and ambition.

22 At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. 
The young man's response to Jesus' invitation to discipleship is to sadly walk away.  He loves God but not enough to be willing to give up all his material possessions and the rank and comfort it affords him to follow Jesus from place to place only depending on God to provide for his needs.  The young man will still have the path of life in living in obedience to God's commandments, but like all the Jews of Jesus' generation he will have to make the choice to receive an even greater portion of blessing only offered through faith in Jesus Christ.  We do not know what happened to the young man in whom Jesus saw the potential for holiness, but perhaps, later, he had the courage to give up what was temporal for a greater eternal reward. 

Jesus invitation to the young man does not mean that He expects all who profess faith in Him to give up all their worldly possessions, but we must all be willing to make the sacrifice and we cannot treasure our earthly possessions more than we treasure our eternal salvation.  St. Francis of Assisi was the "rich young man" who said "yes" and gave up all his worldly wealth to follow Christ.

Mark 10:23-27 ~ A Teaching on the Danger of Riches
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!"  24 The disciples were amazed at his words.  So Jesus again said to them in reply, "children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!  25 It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God!"  26 They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, "Then who can be saved?"  27 Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.  All things are possible for God."
The Greek word for "camel" is kamelon while the word for "rope" is kamilon.  The huge ropes to which the anchors of ships were tied were made of camel hair.  This may be a play on words in which Jesus is using hyperbole to say that it is easier for the rope called a "camel" to pass through a needle used to make the fishing nets than for a rich man to enter the gates of heaven.  It is a comparison that would have appealed to the Apostles, many of whom were fishermen from the Galilee and familiar with ships and their equipment.  St. Cyril of Alexandria suggests this is the comparison Jesus was making: By "camel" here he means not the living thing, the beast of burden, but the thick rope to which sailors tie their anchors.  He shows this comparison to be not entirely pointless (as a camel would be), but he makes it an exceedingly difficult matter; in fact, next to impossible (Fragment from the Gospel of Matthew, 219).3 

Scripture tells us that it is hard for the rich to enter the gates of heaven (see Ez 7:19; Prov 30:8-9; Sir 31:5-7 and Mt 5:3).  The problem isn't the wealth but it is the self-sufficiency wealth gives a person.  The wealthy often do not feel they need God because they believe their wealth affords them the power to handle any crisis they may face.  That is why Jesus listed "poverty of spirit" as the first Beatitude (Mat 5:3).  The "poor in spirit" are contrasted with the "proud in spirit."  Acknowledging we need God is the first step in the spiritual journey to salvation.   See the teaching on the "poor in spirit" in the Beatitudes study Lesson 3.

26 They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, "Then who can be saved?"  27 Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.  All things are possible for God."
Part of the disciples' astonishment may have been because, according to the teachings of the Sinai Covenant, having material blessings meant one was blessed by God (Lev 26:3-13; Dt 28:1-14).  However, under the new order, the old temporal blessings mean nothing compared to blessings that are eternal.  The significance of Jesus' response to the disciples in verse 27 is that salvation is a gift of God; it is not something one can work for or purchase (see CCC 276, 308 and 1058).

Mark 10:28-30 ~ The Reward of Personal Sacrifice
28 Peter began to say to him, "We have given up everything and followed you."  29 Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel 30 who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come."
Comparing the Apostles and disciples with the rich young man, Peter points out that he and the others have given up everything to follow Jesus.  Notice that Peter acts as the spokesman of the group.  The Apostles and disciples understand that they have answered to a higher calling and want to know what their sacrifice will mean.  Jesus' response to Peter in verses 29-30 is that God will respond with graces that are far greater than the cost of their sacrifices.

Their sacrifices will give them an inheritance in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.  The twelve will govern Jesus' earthly kingdom.  They are the "foundation stones" on which Jesus will build the new Israel and they will rule from the "new Jerusalem" of the Church's authority over the earth.  They will share in His glory and in His royal prerogative as judge when they rule over the twelve tribes of their kinsmen who they must call into the new age of the Kingdom (see Dan 7:13-14, Rev 21:12-14; CCC 765).  The authority to judge/rule the 12 tribes may also be part of the Last Judgment.  In the book of Revelation there are 24 elders who sit on thrones around the throne of God.  It is difficult to determine from Revelation 4:3-4 the identity of the 24 elders, but many of the Fathers of the Church suggest they are the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel, the physical fathers of the first covenant people and the twelve Apostles, who are the spiritual fathers of the children of Jesus' New Covenant Kingdom.

Catechism References:
Psalm 90:12-17
Hebrews 4:13 (CCC 302)
Mark 10:19 (CCC 1858); 10:22 (CCC 2728); 10:28-30 (CCC 1618)

Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2015