Today’s readings: Wisdom 7, 7-11; Hebrews 4, 12-13; Mark 10, 17-30.
The expression that stands out loudly from today’s Scripture readings is from the letter to Hebrews, which says that “the word of God can judge the secret emotions and thoughts”. For those who believe in God, His presence is penetrating. In His presence “we cannot hide, because everything is uncovered and open to His eyes”.
This may sound like a frightening Big Brother presence, but it is not. Belief in God is not just belief that He exists, but belief that He is the Lord creator, that His presence is sustaining and saving, an embracing presence. This we find in narrative form in the gospel text of the rich man episode, particularly when “Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him”.
The voice of the Lord in our life is not the voice of the law, of someone who demands blind obedience without any freedom to argue. The voice of the Lord is the inner voice of love. It is a gentle voice that enhances our inner freedom from so much that can ultimately be enslaving and demeaning.
Not heeding His voice is not sinful, it simply makes us miss out on something that can truly be fulfilling. It fills the inner void that many a time generates in us sadness, boredom, dissatisfaction. The challenge to be disciples of Jesus cannot be reduced to a simple observation of laws, as unfortunately for so long we were made to believe.
Christian life is costly. Grace is costly. Grace is the wisdom of which the first reading speaks today. “Understanding was given to me and I esteemed wisdom more than sceptres and thrones; compared with her I held riches as nothing.” This is the wisdom that gives true inner freedom, it is the grace of detachment which results from discipleship.
The rich man’s episode demonstrates how illusory faith can be if based on the observation of the Commandments. The rich man considered himself blameless. Still he felt inside that that was not all. His request to Jesus is very telling. In this particular case it is not someone who goes to Jesus asking for physical healing. His pain was an inner pain and he was crying for help just as all those who used to run up to Jesus to be healed.
There is a build-up in Mark’s gospel, gradually switching from outer to inner pain, to focus on what makes us sick inside. We all live our daily lives very busy with doing what needs to be done, for ourselves and for others. We do not even have the time to ask ourselves the question posed by this man: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
It is so easy to make ourselves believe that the only life that exists is the one we know and we are breathing. We may think that speaking of eternal life in the age of sophisticated technology and artificial intelligence may be transporting us to the Flintstones age. We are so prone to take the advice of the poet Horace: “Carpe diem”, seize the day. Trust as little as possible in tomorrow.
The rich man in the gospel represents all of us, except, perhaps, for one thing: that we lack the courage to run up to Jesus and let him look at us in the face. The risk is that we continue speeding up without giving heed to the warnings of a nearing speed camera.
There is a fundamental option we all need to face and it does not make sense to keep postponing it to late in life. If it is an option worth doing, then it needs to be done as early in life as possible. It is the option that gives orientation to all other choices in life, but above all, it offers inner healing so that we never lose the bigger picture for the sake of petty things that end up possessing us.
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