Living the Word: The treasure of eternal life is learned through self-giving
By Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time/Oct. 10
Wisdom 7:7-11; Psalm 90:12-13,14-15,16-17; Hebrews 4:12-13; Mark 10:17-30
There was once a revolutionary, who when he was young, prayed to God “Lord, give me the energy to change the world.” As he approached middle-age and realized that half his life was gone without changing a single soul, he changed his prayer to “Lord, give me the grace to change all those who come in contact with me . . . family and friends, and I shall be satisfied.” When he was an old man and his days were numbered, his one prayer was, “Lord give me the grace to change myself.” If I had prayed for this right from the start, he thought, I should not have wasted my life.
The young man in this week’s Scripture was struggling with a similar situation. What was he truly seeking? Was he seeking the key to the inheritance he hoped was his? Was he looking for an entrance ticket to eternal life? It seems that no matter his intention, he saw eternal life as “some kind of transactional process by which he could earn favor from God. If he could understand the requirements, he had the power to handle the rest.” (Sister Mary M. McGlone, CSJ, NCR).
Jesus could see that the young man had not yet become the master of what he owned. His goods had such a grip on him that he could not break free to fulfill his deepest desire. In this moment, Jesus looked on him with love for he knew the young man was bound by his possessions and affluence, and it was impossible to break free of them to fulfill his deepest desire.
DIFFICULT, YET SIMPLE
There is nothing in the Gospel that demands that everyone be a St. Francis and give away all their possessions. Jesus’ words in the Gospel do warn us, however, about the way that a desire for more — be it goods, prestige, luxury or power — diverts us from our greatest potential.
“I prayed, and prudence was given me; 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. . . .” (Wisdom 7:7-9)
These are the same kind words Jesus was speaking to the distraught young man. If you truly want the fullness of life, if you want to have God as your center and realize your deepest self, “go sell what you have, and give to the poor.” Wisdom could remind the young man that “all good things together came to me in her company, and countless riches at her hands.” (Wisdom 7:11)
How very difficult, yet simple, are these words. In our search for true wisdom, each of us is caught in a whirlwind of temptation and spiritual blindness. We ask the Lord for wisdom. Sometimes we need to know exactly what is right and what is wrong in our struggle.
GOD GIFTS US
In all moments God calls us to stretch ourselves to be more: to let go of our “possessions” and give ourselves to others, whether it be to the poor, to our family, to the community. It is in self-gift that we learn the treasure of eternal life. It is in generosity that we break the bonds of our self-focus to see God’s needs beyond ourselves.
We may feel the sharp-edged sword of God’s call. “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 thought of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12-13)
There is a trick to this inheritance thing. It is easy to forget that what he have, what we have been given, whether it is genetics and biology, status and goods, are things we did nothing to deserve. God gifts us; we do with these gifts as we choose.
Eternal life is a birthright, an inheritance no one can earn. We simply allow God to show us what we must do to experience this inheritance.
SISTER RACHEL BERGSCHNEIDER, OSB, is a member of the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Mary Monastery, Rock Island. She ministers at the Peoria County Jail, serving as a facilitator in the Jobs Partnership program.