28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Sunday of the Year of Faith
- · Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
- · Joke of the Day
- · Today’s Gospel Reading
- · Gospel Reflection
- · Reflection Prayer
The following is a letter I wish to convey to you from my OFS Regions Justice and Peace Commissioner, Mike DePue, OFS:
During October we have the Feast of Francis. October is the month of the Rosary [as well]. October 11th, in the traditional calendar was the feast of the Divine Maternity of Mary, and Pope Benedict has noted that when Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council on this day in 1962, he “wanted to entrust the entire council to the motherly hands, to the motherly heart of the Virgin Mary.” Also in October, the Eastern Churches celebrate the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God.
Sadly, our society still has many persons who need the protection of Our Mother – – and of those of us willing to express concern. So, we need to note that October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has developed a web page called When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women (http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/domestic-violence/when-i-call-for-help.cfm). The bishops address this statement to several audiences, including “society, which has made some strides towards recognizing the extent of domestic violence against women.”
Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that your locality is immune from this social ill. The only fundamental question is: What will be your Franciscan response?
Pax et Bonum,
Mike DePue, OFS
PLENARY INDULGENCE FOR THE “YEAR OF FAITH”
Per a decree made public on October 5th, 2012 in Vatican City, Pope Benedict XVI will grant a Plenary Indulgence for the occasion of the “Year of Faith”. The indulgence will be valid from the opening of the Year on 11 October 2012 until its end on 24 November 2013.
“The day of the fiftieth anniversary of the solemn opening of Vatican Council II”, the text reads, “the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI has decreed the beginning of a Year especially dedicated to the profession of the true faith and its correct interpretation, through the reading of – or better still the pious meditation upon – the Acts of the Council and the articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church”.
“During the Year of Faith, which will last from 11 October 2012 to 24 November 2013, Plenary Indulgence for the temporal punishment of sins, imparted by the mercy of God and applicable also to the souls of deceased faithful, may be obtained by all faithful who, truly penitent, take Sacramental Confession and the Eucharist and pray in accordance with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.
“(A) Each time they attend at least three sermons during the Holy Missions, or at least three lessons on the Acts of the Council or the articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in church or any other suitable location.
“(B) Each time they visit, in the course of a pilgrimage, a papal basilica, a Christian catacomb, a cathedral church or a holy site designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith (for example, minor basilicas and shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Apostles or patron saints), and there participate in a sacred celebration, or at least remain for a congruous period of time in prayer and pious meditation, concluding with the recitation of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, and invocations to the Blessed Virgin Mary and, depending on the circumstances, to the Holy Apostles and patron saints.
“(C) Each time that, on the days designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith, … in any sacred place, they participate in a solemn celebration of the Eucharist or the Liturgy of the Hours, adding thereto the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form.
“(D) On any day they chose, during the Year of Faith, if they make a pious visit to the baptistery, or other place in which they received the Sacrament of Baptism, and there renew their baptismal promises in any legitimate form.
“Diocesan or eparchal bishops, and those who enjoy the same status in law, on the most appropriate day during that period or on the occasion of the main celebrations, … may impart the papal blessing with the Plenary Indulgence”.
The document concludes by recalling how faithful who, due to illness or other legitimate cause, are unable to leave their place of adobe, may still obtain Plenary Indulgence “if, united in spirit and thought with other faithful, and especially at the times when the words of the Supreme Pontiff and diocesan bishops are transmitted by television or radio, they recite … the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, and other prayers which concord with the objectives of the Year of Faith, offering up the suffering and discomfort of their lives”.
Today’s reflection: A man with many possessions asks Jesus what he must do to gain eternal life. What must YOU DO to gain eternal life? Are you ready to give up ALL, to become a “slave” for Christ to gain eternal life … REALLY?!
(NAB Mark 10:17-30) 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.
Today, we continue reading in Mark’s Gospel from where we left off last Sunday. In last Sunday’s reading, Jesus was tested by the Pharisees in regard to the requirements for divorce per Jewish Law. At this time period, Jesus was journeying to Jerusalem.
Still travelling, in today’s Gospel, an “unnamed man” approaches Jesus and inquires about what he must do to “inherit eternal life” (Mark 10:17). Jesus replies that he must follow the commandments of the Law of Moses. This is not an unusual statement as this command had been followed for centuries by pious Jews. So, the man acknowledges that he has obviously observed all of these “Laws” since his childhood. Jesus then says to the man that only one thing is lacking: he must give his possessions to the poor and follow Him [Jesus]. The man leaves Jesus in sadness because he owned many possessions which he obviously cherished greatly.
My question to you: “Is it surprising that Jesus put a condition on what had been ‘Mosaic Law’ for centuries prior to Jesus’ arrival?” My answer is NO, it is not surprising at all! Jesus had added “conditions” in the past when teaching the beatitudes, and even added conditions in last week’s dialogue in regard to divorce.
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17)
Jesus answered him,
“Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” (Mark 10:18).
Jesus is rejecting the term “good” for Himself and directs it instead to God the Father, the true source of all goodness – – and, who alone can grant the gift of eternal life. The theme Jesus is going to reveal is that if you wish to enter into life in the kingdom of God, you need to keep the commandments of paramount importance in your life:
“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’” (Mark 10:17-30).
The “unknown man” had the best the secular world could offer – wealth and security. However, he came to Jesus because he lacked something. He wanted a lasting peace and happiness which NO money could buy him. The answer he received from Jesus however, was not what he was looking for in his quest for peace. (Remember, God has a unique sense of humor at times.) This “unknown man” swore to Jesus that he kept all the required commandments. However, Jesus spoke to him of the underlying dilemma in his heart and soul. Only one thing kept him from giving himself totally and completely to God. While he lacked for nothing materialistically, he was nonetheless selfishly overprotective of what he had acquired in his life. He placed his hope and security in what he possessed materialistically, not spiritually! His priority was values of this world, not the next!
“Sell what you have, and give to [the] poor … then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21).
The first requirement is that he must give up his possessions in order to “inherit eternal life”. Throughout history, many Christians have taken this requirement literally word-for-word. Those who have given up ALL possessions, like St. Francis of Assisi, have showed witness to a fundamentally extreme commitment to the Gospel of Jesus. Others have read this passage as a particular requirement directed solely to this specific “unknown man” in today’s reading. And, still others have sought to explain the meaning intended in this passage as giving up those things and items preventing one from following Jesus (I believe this is the most popular and common belief).
Christians have generally understood that following Jesus required believers to hold material possessions “with a loose knot”, and to remain vigilant against seeking security in accumulating material possessions. The Rule for Secular Franciscans mentions freeing oneself from material needs in two of its 26 articles: 11 and 12:
11. Trusting the Father, Christ chose for Himself and His mother a poor and humble life, even though He valued created things attentively and lovingly. Let the Secular Franciscans seek a proper spirit of detachment from temporal goods by simplifying their own material needs. Let them be mindful that according to the gospel they are stewards of the goods received for the benefit of God’s children.
Thus, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, and as pilgrims and strangers on their way to the home of the Father, they should strive to purify their hearts from every tendency and yearning for possession and power;
12. Witnessing to the good yet to come and obligated to acquire purity of heart because of the vocation they have embraced, they should set themselves free to love God and their brothers and sisters.
The second requirement for inheriting “eternal life” is the exact same invitation given to this “unknown man” as is extended to ALL would-be disciples, then and NOW: “follow me” (Mark 10:21). Jesus very much wants this “unknown man” to be a disciple of His; Jesus wants ALL of us to be disciples of His!! The Catholic Christian faith is one in which each distinct and unique individual believer is in a personal, intimate, and unique relationship with Jesus Christ Himself. Just as today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus loves the “unknown man” and is sad when this man departs, so too, Jesus loves us and is saddened when we are unable to follow Him – – when we turn our backs to Him.
When Jesus challenged the “unknown man” to make God his one true possession and treasure, he became troubled and saddened. With distress and sadness in his heart and on his soul, he turned his back on Jesus, walking away from Him. Hmm, why did he turn away from Jesus with sadness rather than stay with Him with joy? I believe his treasure and his hope for happiness were certainly mislaid; his treasure and hope were in his material items. Out of a deep, underlying fear for losing what he had gained in this world, he was afraid to give to others. This “unknown man” sought happiness and security in his worldly items rather than in Jesus Christ, whom he could love, serve, and give of himself in a devotion of true faith.
“’How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ … 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’” (Mark 10:23-25).
Do you know why I say these Men (and women) were confused and unnerved by Jesus’ “Words”? Because His “Words” seem to contradict Hebrew Scriptures concept in which wealth and material goods were considered a sign of God’s favor. Here are just three examples:
“Have you not surrounded him and his family and all that he has with your protection? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his livestock are spread over the land” (Job 1:10);
“Blessed are all who fear the LORD, and who walk in his ways. What your hands provide you will enjoy; you will be blessed and prosper” (Psalm 128:1–2);
“Happy the just, for it will go well with them, the fruit of their works they will eat.” (Isaiah 3:10).
The Old Testament often speaks of God offering material rewards for observance of His laws. This, I believe, was because the “future life” was not yet revealed to them receiving the “heavenly” reward prior to Jesus’ role as redeemer of the world. It was therefore taken for granted, in spite of opposing evidence, that riches were a sign of God’s favor. (One very popular television evangelist still preaches this exact notion every Sunday.)
So, why does Jesus tell His followers to “sell all” for the treasure of “eternal life” in His kingdom? Well, “treasure” has a special connection to the heart; it is the thing we as human-beings most set our heart on to be our highest treasure. Jesus Christ Himself is the greatest treasure we can ever obtain and can ever possess, and should be our HIGHEST possession.
Since wealth, power, and advantage generated a false sense of security and sanctuary among God’s children, Jesus rejects them outright as a claim to enter God’s kingdom. In reality, achievement of God’s salvation is beyond any human capability. God’s salvation depends solely on the mercy and goodness of God the Father, who offers His claim to salvation and heaven freely TO ALL – – as a gift to be accepted:
“Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” (Mark 10:27).
Those who are generous towards God – – and His children, our neighbors – – will find they cannot be out-given in return by God. His generous return to us will always be greater than what we give to others of His “children”. God blesses us, and graces us NOW, with treasures from His kingdom. They are:
(1) Freedom from the clutching force, fear, and power of sin; from selfishness and pride opposing His love and grace in our lives;
(2) Freedom from loneliness, isolation, and rejection keeping us from living together in love, peace, and unity; and,
(3) Freedom of hopelessness, despair, and disillusionment blinding our vision of God’s magnificent power to heal every hurt, to bind every wound, and to remove every blemish injury the image of the Trinitarian God within each of us.
God the Father offers to each of us – – personally, intimately, and uniquely – – a treasure which any amount of money can never buy. God – – And ONLY God – – satisfies the deepest longing and desires of our heart, soul, and being. PLEASE, be willing to part with, to separate yourself from, anything keeping you from seeking the true and completely full JOY in, with, and through Jesus Christ?
“For you say, ‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,’ and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. “ (Revelations 3:17).
* Laodicea was a Christian community established in the ancient city of the same name (on the river Lycus, in the Roman province of Asia). The church was established in the earliest period of Christianity, and is probably best known for being one of the seven churches addressed by name in the Book of Revelation (Revelations 3.14-22) ~ per Wikipedia.
Per one of Paul’s Pastoral Epistles written to the administrator of the entire Ephesian** community, wealth can also lead us into hurtful desires and selfishness:
“Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:9-10).
** Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Asia Minor, near present-day Selçuk, Izmir Province, Turkey.
Giving up ALL we have in order to have Jesus Christ as OUR treasure is not to be considered as a sorrowful act; it is the greatest act of joy, one can lovingly do for others. Selling all that we have may mean many different things. It could mean letting go of attachments, friendships, influences, jobs, status, entertainment, or even you’re your manner or means of life. Anything standing in the way of our loving and making God first and foremost in our lives, AND, anything standing in the way of giving Him the best we can with our time, talents, and treasures, should be removed from our presence and lives. Do we truly want God saying to us “YOUR will be done” instead of us saying to Him “thy will be done”? I know I don’t want Him saying this to me!!
Jesus is offering a further condition in this reading from Mark’s Gospel today: a condition which challenges disciples following Him who are materialistically wealthy and trying to enter the Kingdom of God. (Give it up and follow.) In reply to the disciples’ astonishment at the strictness of the two requirements Jesus speaks about in today’s reading, He reminds His followers:
“For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” (Mark 10:27).
Our eternal salvation is determined by our ability to rely completely upon, to trust completely in, and to hope completely for – – God in our lives ALWAYS!!
Peter replies to Jesus by boasting that the disciples have already given up everything. Jesus acknowledges that those who have given up everything for the sake of the Gospel will be rewarded. This is not a FUTURE HOPE – – IT IS HAPPENING NOW!! This reward begins NOW, in the new community one gains in this present life, and continuing into the eternal age to come. Our personal relationship with Jesus is also an invitation to the community of faith, in its fullest, the Catholic Church. So, if you have left the Catholic Church, for whatever reason, please come home today!
Today’s Gospel might make us uncomfortable about our personal materialistic possessions. This discomfort actually may offer each of us an opportunity to consider what we have in relation to our commitment to the poor and marginalized. Without any doubt, material possessions are truly a necessity in our society and way of life. However, our amount and use of these possessions, and our attitude about their importance, IS our choice. We have a “free will” to choose who or what, we truly worship – – God or manna. In making this choice, we must be aware of our love, trust, and faith in Jesus Christ who commits each of us – – personally, intimately, and uniquely – – to care for the poor and marginalized of this world.
I would reason that there are items in each of our houses we no longer need or use. Reflect on Jesus’ remarks about material possessions and how you feel about Jesus’ teaching today. Tomorrow, choose an action showing your commitment to the poor. It could be as simple as donating some of your extra or unused items to another in need. Repeat this process often.
“Honor the LORD with your wealth, with first fruits of all your produce; then will your barns be filled with plenty, with new wine your vats will overflow” (Proverbs 3:9-10);
“Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you” (Luke 6:38).
Jesus offers us an incomparable, never-ending treasure which NO money can EVER buy; a treasure NO thief can ever steal. I want to share His treasure with you! God’s gift to us is the gift which keeps on giving.
“Prayer of Surrender”
“Loving Father, I surrender to you today with all my heart and soul. Please come into my heart in a deeper way. I say, “Yes” to you today. I open all the secret places of my heart to you and say, “Come on in.” Jesus, you are the Lord of my whole life. I believe in you and receive you as my Lord and Savior. I hold nothing back.
Holy Spirit, bring me to a deeper conversion to the person of Jesus Christ. I surrender all to you: my time, my treasures, my talents, my health, my family, my resources, my work, relationships, time management, successes and failures. I release it and let it go.
I surrender my understanding of how things ‘ought’ to be, my choices and my will. I surrender to you the promises I have kept and the promises I have failed to keep. I surrender my weaknesses and strengths to you. I surrender my emotions, my fears, my insecurities, my sexuality. I especially surrender ______ (Here mention other areas of surrender as the Holy Spirit reveals them to you.)
Lord, I surrender my whole life to you, the past, the present, and the future. In sickness and in health, in life and in death, I belong to you. (Remain with the Lord in a spirit of silence through your thoughts, a heart song, or simply staying in His presence and listening for His voice.)