Reflection for Sunday, October 12, 2003: 28th week in Ordinary Time.

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Gillick, Larry, S.J.
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So as to be more available to God's grace contained in the Liturgy of the Word, imagine Jesus taking the pulse of a man kneeling before him. The man looks earnestly into the face of Jesus who in turn looks kindly into the man's eyes.||The two are having an intense conversation about religious commitment and as Jesus refines his expectations about what constitutes holiness or discipleship, Jesus notices the man's heartbeat increase dramatically when Jesus asks him to sell all his goods and then follow along with the other disciples. Jesus seems frightened by the increase in heart rate when the man hears this. Getting up quickly the fellow turns and walks away with downcast head and spirit. His heart was breaking at the invitation, but his heart just wasn't in it.|PRE-PRAYERING| Sometimes in reading and or listening to scripture there is a margin for interpretation, some wiggle room. At other times there is hardly enough room or need for a homily or Daily Reflection. Today's Gospel is one such offering. What words do we not understand? This is not an issue of morality exactly, but strictly about relationship. We are invited to pray for an increase of faith so that the security which riches provide is replace with the wisdom which God provides.|We pray for the freedom from those things which possess us and for a generosity with those things we possess. The simple call of Jesus is not to make anything a god and God will make all things plentiful and good. |REFLECTION| The First Reading from the Book of Wisdom is a profession and boast of faith. The speaker reviews the history of personal prayer and the resultant change from the ordinary which took place. Not all that glitters is gold, but even gold and silver compared to true wisdom fade in attractiveness. Compared to the usual attractions of health, wealth, light and beauty, this sense of life's true meaning and value are counted as unattractive. With such a sense, the speaker acknowledges the abundance which came with "her" as a companion. The author had truly a reverse of fortune not from riches to rags, but from thingliness to true goodliness.|The Gospel story opens with the "Big Question." As Jesus is walking along, a man drops to his knees before Jesus and asks the quite human question about what are the requirements for earning, achieving, winning, gaining, or manipulating one's way into eternal life. Jesus of course asks the man to reflect on his own religious tradition. After the man recites what the law prescribes, Jesus gives him the "Big Answer."| "Eternal life" is not a prize to be won through specific actions, but through an attitude which is formed through a relationship. Jesus asks the man if the relationship he has with Jesus is deep, enough to sell all he possessed and then could that relationship continue by his following with the disciples. The man shakes his head and walks away back to hold on to what he knows will save him from insecurity, but he seems sad at the prospect.|Peter too has a "Big Question." He hears Jesus reflect on the difficulty for the materially rich to enter the "kingdom of God." "What about us?" he asks. "We have left everything." For human effort to win, gain, achieve or manipulate the acquiring of "eternal life" is impossible, but with God's love received as a relational gift, all things are available and possible.| Shortly after entering the Jesuit novitiate near St. Louis, Missouri, we were given permission to take a swim in the Jesuit-made pool. The temperature of the summer day was just a little warmer than the water, but it was supposed to be a real treat. I jumped in and I heard the Novice Master say, "Now this is a part of the hundred fold." I shook my head as much in disbelief as to clear my ears of water. I thought to myself that the "hundred fold" better be a lot better than this and a lot better than these new "brothers" which were supposed to be also a part of the "Big Answer."| Jesus is the "Wisdom Figure" who offers his followers a sacred view of everything and everybody. The "big question" for us is about his being serious concerning financial wealth and material possessions being a condemning barrier to eternal life. The "big answer" has to do with whether one makes a god out of wealth and things. Riches were a sign of God's blessing in the Jewish tradition. Jesus is presenting himself as the ultimate wealth. He places himself as the most important reality in life against which all else is sacred, but secondary. He presents himself as the ultimate source of security against which everything else ultimately disappoints us. |What Jesus offers the rich man is a relationship rather than a blueprint or set of specifications. It is not "what must we do," but "whom must we do." Jesus is person not law and he invites the man beyond prescriptions. He enriches the poverty of all things and offers them as sacraments or gestures of blessing and accompaniment. It is very hard when we are surrounded by riches to find our security outside what we can touch, use, and indulge. True spiritual poverty results in a sense that everything has God's fingerprints on them and are meant to be received, shared, and reverenced. |The old swimming pool is gone, my brothers have changed quite a bit and they are truly part of the "hundred fold." I have many gifts surrounding me here, but my identity and security lie beyond and that is worth more than everything. |The rich suffer want and go hungry, but nothing shall be lacking to those who fear the Lord." Ps. 34, 11
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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