For those who preach the Bible from a literal standpoint, there might be a problem being consistent with the Scripture of last weekend and this weekend. The Gospel of last weekend [Mark 10:2-16] spoke against divorce and went so far as to say that a “man who divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her.” And then, if you want to reflect on the Old Testament Reading from Genesis [2:18-24] might even use the creation story to expound profusely against same-gender marriage.
But, what happens this weekend?
The Gospel [Mark 10:17-30] reminds us of when a man came and knelt before Jesus, asking, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” After he tells Jesus that he is keeping the commandments that forbid stealing, lying, committing adultery, defrauding, etc.”, Jesus then tells the man, “Go and sell what you have and give to the poor.”
Sell what you have. What does that mean? Well, if one preaches literally, I would think it would mean the close in the closet, the car in the garage, the food in the freezer, and the salt & pepper shakers in the cabinet. Jesus did not say give to the poor — or share your leftovers with the poor — or give if you have some extra — he said, SELL WHAT YOU HAVE AND GIVE TO THE POOR.
Could it be that there is a faith message in this weekend’s Scripture? Could it be then, that just maybe last weekend’s Scripture also should be read and heard from a faith standpoint?
When Pope Francis was given a Harley bike, he sold it and gave the proceeds to the poor. He chose to forego the handmade red leather shoes for his comfortable working man shoes for those with feet problems.
Looking at the first reading [Wisdom 7:7-11], we learn of the person who prayed and received prudence. After pleading, a spirit of wisdom was granted. We learn that in the eyes of wisdom/prudence, “gold is a little sand.”
Last weekend, I heard the Scripture tell us that it was not good for man to be alone — and so God would raise up a helpmate — helpmates — for us. Could be a spouse, a best friend forever, a strong family circle, a network of friends, etc. And THEN, God tells us to work at building up and sustaining these relationships ….. because in the relationships we will find love and life. It is like what the Gospel says …. live as Jesus commands, and we will have houses, brothers and sisters, mothers, children, and lands …. [literalist: how can one have mothers?]
But, let’s go back to that teaching to go and sell what one/I/we have:
1. Am I willing to sell all — give up all — for Jesus or for others — if need be?
We might have some hesitancy and we might not want to do it. BUT, I think most who read this blog would say, if there was a true need, if someone I love really needs for me to give up or sell something, I am willing to do it.
2. We do realize that things are “just things”, right?
I know that all cars will eventually get a scratch, a ding, etc. I will live when it happens.
I recently dropped a ceramic pitcher that I had bought in Italy when I went there with Bishop Speyrer for the canonization of Katharine Drexel. So many pieces of ceramic needed to be swept up. It was from Italy. I had bought it on a memorable trip. I used it on many Holy Thursday nights for footwashing. No happy to have dropped it — but I slept well that night and woke up the next morning. [And, it is better to break a pitcher than to break ME!]
3. I believe fervently that everything I have is given to me — shared with me — as a gift for the short time I am on earth.
I am reminded too often these days that life is limited. People my age and younger are passing away. I am to use things and to enjoy them. OWNING SOMETHING gives me the right to possess it for a while —– but NOT forever.
4. Tithing is for real and for life.
The call to share 10% of what we have for others is a biblical guide that precedes the promise of what of the many lands, houses, brothers and sisters, etc. that we will come our way if we share with those in need.
It took me many years to learn and to understand this teaching. AND AGAIN, it may not be a literal 10% for some time. We may need to grow into this understanding as we learn how to use what we have, to save, and to help others. I believe the thought that we are to give 5% to our local parish church and then 5% to the other needs of the world, we will be ok and the world will be a better place. The needs of the world might be the Diocesan appeal, it might be Catholic Charities, it might be the Boy Scouts, it might be the Cancer Fund, or a local feeding program, or a local home building agency, or Catholic education —–
Giving without knowing who is receiving is a part of the message of the Gospel this weekend. Giving for the sake of giving. Letting go of something from our hand, and putting it into the empty hand of someone else.
5. Very few of us will get out of this world without needing someone to help us along the way.
We will want/need the prayers of others, a helping hand, someone to sit with us, someone to comfort us, someone to teach us or to advise us. The relationships we build through mutual support will come back to us.
Let us share — let us give — let us live —- so that all might live.