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October 07, 2009
Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time
By Brian Pizzalato *

By Brian Pizzalato *

First ReadingWis. 7:7-11

Responsorial PsalmPs. 90:12-13, 14-15, 16-17

Second ReadingHeb. 4:12-13

Gospel ReadingMk. 10:17-30

 

“I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me…I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with her…all gold is a little sand in her sight” (Wisdom 7:7b, 8b). This was the prayer of King Solomon for the glorious gift of wisdom, which is part of the Old Testament reading for this Sunday, and it relates directly to the Gospel reading from Mark.

 

In Mark a rich man comes to Jesus and asks, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17b). Jesus responds by listing the commandments that relate to love of neighbor. The rich man responds, “Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth” (Mark 10:20). However, keeping the commandments that relate to love of neighbor is not enough. Jesus, looks at him with love, and says, “You lack one thing; go sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mark 10:21). The rich man then walks away depressed and sorrowful.

 

Jesus will go on to tell his Apostles, “There is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time…and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30).

 

What is the one thing he lacks? The rich man has kept the commandments that pertain to love of neighbor, but he will not keep the commandments that pertain to love of God. Jesus says, “Come, follow me.” As Dr. Mary Healy notes in her book, The Gospel of Mark, “Come, follow me. Here is where the first tablet of the Decalogue comes in: it is in giving one’s life unconditionally to Jesus that the covenant obligation to love God is lived out. Jesus is in place of God” (p. 203). In fact, Jesus is God.

 

The fact that Jesus is God is confirmed by the beginning of the conversation between Jesus and the rich man. After the rich man called Jesus, “Good Teacher,” Jesus says, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” (Mark 10:18, 19). Jesus is certainly not denying that he is good or God. He is rather affirming it, for those who have ears to hear. As Dr. Healy notes, “He [Jesus] is not denying that he is good; rather, he is inviting the man to reflect more deeply on what he has just said [Good Teacher]. On what basis does he call Jesus good? Is it because he is a wise teacher and powerful miracle worker? Because he treats everyone with kindness? Or is there a more profound basis for Jesus’ goodness? Does the man recognize that ultimately, God alone is good, and that what he perceives in Jesus is not merely unusual human qualities but that infinite goodness that belongs to God alone? Jesus gently directs the man’s gaze toward the answer to his heart’s longing” (p. 202).

 

Jesus was leading the rich man all along to recognize that he is in fact God, and that he must follow him to inherit eternal life.

 

King Solomon prayed to receive the gift of wisdom, and would have given up everything, scepter, throne, gems, gold, and silver to receive this glorious gift. Unfortunately, the rich man is not willing to do the same in order to follow the second person of the Trinity.

 

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). As the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear, “The precept of detachment from riches is obligatory for entrance into the Kingdom of heaven. All Christ’s faithful are to ‘direct their affections rightly, lest they be hindered in their pursuit of perfect charity by the use of worldly things and by an adherence to riches which is contrary to the spirit of evangelical poverty’” (2544-2545).

 

As Gregory of Nyssa notes, “The Word [Jesus] speaks of voluntary humility as ‘poverty in spirit;’ the Apostle gives an example of God’s poverty when he says: ‘For your sakes he became poor’” (CCC 2546). Christ asks no more of the rich man then he has already done himself. In essence the rich man is being called to be Christ-like.

Brian Pizzalato is the Director of Catechesis, R.C.I.A. & Lay Apostolate, Diocese of Duluth and is a faculty member of the Philosophy department of the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham, England.

Brian writes a monthly column, “Veritatis Splendor,” for The Northern Cross of the Diocese of Duluth and his 33-part series on the sacraments for The Northern Cross have also been posted on Catholic News Agency's website, where he also authors a weekly column, “Road to Emmaus,” on the Sunday Readings, (which are translated into Romanian and posted on www.profamilia.ro).

Pizzalato is currently authoring the regular series, "Catechesis and Contemporary Culture," in The Sower, published by the Maryvale Institute. He is also author of the Philosophy of Religion course book for the B.A. in Philosophy and the Catholic Tradition at the Maryvale Institute.

Brian holds an M.A. in Theology and Christian Ministry with a Catechetics specialization and an M.A. in Philosophy from Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH. Brian currently pursuing an M.A. in Biblical Studies at the Augustine Institute in Denver, CO as well as being a Ph.D. candidate at the Maryvale Institute. Brian is married and has six children.
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