Wisdom 7:7-9 - I pleaded and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her, 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.
Hebrews 4:13 - No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.
From the Gospel of Mark 10:17-30 –The Story of the Rich Young Man.
Please read this first.
The Homily ___________________________________________________________________
This morning I’d like us to try and imagine the rich young man as if the scene in the Gospel were today. His success is obvious. He dresses well, Italian shoes and a beautifully tailored suit. His money is invested. His credit cards are golden. He flies first class. He drives a new car, probably a BMW. He’s energetic and He’s successful; and death seems a long way off.
This rich young man is admired by all, a powerful guy for his age. He is respected as a fair guy, a good guy who works hard and plays by the rules. But ... there is something missing. There is a nagging question that all his success, prosperity and status do not seem to satisfy.
One of the interesting facets of this story is that for someone so esteemed, for a man of his pedigree, calling on a carpenter’s son for help must have been a little awkward. Jesus was kind of a country boy compared to the rich young man. But there was something true and genuine and powerfully attractive about Jesus, and the young man recognized it. Jesus had something he didn’t, the peace the rich young man lacked.
“Teacher,” the young man asks, “what good thing must I do to get eternal life?
Even his question tells us a lot about his view of life. It almost seems he thinks he can get eternal life as he “gets” everything else, by his own strength and talents. What must I do? He asks. What are the requirements, Jesus? What’s the break-even point? No need for chitchat – go straight for to the bottom line. How much do I need to invest to be certain of my return - to achieve eternal life?
Jesus says simply: “You know the commandments.” And it almost seems as Jesus was listing them off the rich young man had his pencil out and was checking them off one by one. At the end of the list he seems to say – "Great! Piece of cake, I’ve done all of these." You can almost hear a bit of pridefulness in his response. Then Jesus drops a bomb shell. "Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."
Not only did this answer send the young man reeling in confusion and disbelief, Jesus’ answer shell-shocks all the listener there that day. This young man represented what everyone thought was good with God, and Jesus says with man gaining eternal life by your own merit is impossible – impossible!
They were shocked by this statement because in that society, like in ours, you are told: You’ll be rewarded according to your performance. You get grades according to your study. You get money in response to your work. That’s why the rich young man thought heaven was just a payment away. It only made sense. You work hard, you pay your dues, and ... zap ... your account is credited as paid in full.
Jesus says ...
That’s not how it works. What you want costs far more than what you can pay.
You don’t need a system – you need a Savior.
You don’t need a resume – you need a Redeemer.
For what is impossible with men ... is possible with God!
In other words, you cannot save yourself. It is impossible for human beings to save themselves. Only God can do that. You see, it wasn’t the money that hindered the rich young man – it was the self-sufficiency.
Jesus tells his disciples later: "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" But it’s not just the rich who have difficulty. Look how hard it is for the highly educated. The National Academy of Sciences asked their members if they believe in God, only 7% said “Yes.” It’s not money that hinders us from following Jesus it's self-sufficiency. It’s thinking you have it all figured out and you can get there on your own. God doesn’t save us because of our accomplishments. Only a heartless God would sell salvation to the highest earners.
Saint Paul tells us in the second reading how it is with God, he says:
“No creature is concealed from him.” We can’t fool God with our so call success. Paul says, “Everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.” Paul said in his letter to the Romans everyone has sinned. We all fall short of God's glorious standard. And only a great God does for us what is impossible for us to do for ourselves. God’s joy – God’s eternal life – is received upon surrender, not awarded upon conquest.
The first step to joy – to eternal life – is a plea for help, and admit our inward poverty. “Blessed are the poor in spirit” Jesus said. They ask God to do for them what they can’t do without him.
When we humble ourselves before God, when we acknowledge it is impossible for us to save ourselves, God does the impossible. He saves us – despite our shortcomings. God makes salvation possible. He makes eternal life possible.
It was a challenge for the young man to accept powerlessness, to let go of the treasures of this world, the things he felt he earned; the things he felt defined him and humbly follow Jesus. Too bad, because it is when we consider everything we have as rubbish, as compared to a relationship with Jesus Christ, then we have eternal life.
The first reading (from the Book of Wisdom) said that when we receive the wisdom of God, after humbly praying for it, then all gold in view of this wisdom is a little sand; before this wisdom silver is to be accounted mire. Nothing is more valuable then a relationship with Jesus Christ. And when we live connected to Christ nothing is impossible for God. None of us are beyond the saving power of God.
The real riches in life come when we surrender to the love of Jesus Christ and make that relationship with Him our true treasure.