Gospel Lectio Divina for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Oct. 10 2021
As Jesus 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?" Jesus answered him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 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." He replied and said to him, "Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth." 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." At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" 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! 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." They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God." Peter began to say to him, "We have given up everything and followed you." 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 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."
“what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
This question admits what we’re all after, whether we know it or not, whether we admit it or not. Our hearts cry out for something more than this life and this world. The rich man sensed this need for something more probably more than the average person because he had many possessions and learned firsthand how unfulfilling they ultimately are. He got on his knees and begged Christ to tell him how to obtain something greater. The riches of this life left him empty. How often do I pursue those same riches, saying to myself that they will finally make me happy? How often do they fall short in the end? When God reveals the wonders of his kingdom, the rewards are always greater than the riches of this life. Yet, time and time again I need to be reminded of that.
"Then who can be saved?"
In the Responsorial Psalm for Tuesday, October 6, we read “If you, Lord, should mark iniquities, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3). This theme of our unworthiness and God’s righteousness continues into this Sunday’s Gospel. Instead of emphasizing our unworthiness though, the psalmist and Christ goes on to highlight God’s mercy and power. The psalmist continues, “But there is forgiveness with you, that you may be feared” (Psalm 130:4). And Jesus answers the above question, saying ...
“All things are possible for God."
God’s omnipotence should cause us to fear him, but our relationship does not stop there. Jesus emphasizes his father’s power here not to scare us, but so that we may confide in him. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10), but that fear eventually leads us to awe when we notice how much God stays his hand of justice for us in favor of his mercy when we turn to him and repent. Repentance, in fact, is not just about the wrong thing we did. It’s also about restoring our relationship with God. It may surprise some people to learn that even God repents. For example, he was about to destroy Nineveh, but when the city turned from its evil ways in response to the prophet Jonah, “God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not” (Jonah 3:10). This does not mean that God was wrong and then corrected himself. God is never wrong. The fact that he repents does show, however, that God is concerned more about relationship, trust, and love than he is about weighing right against wrong. All things are possible for God. He even knows how to turn evil people around and back toward him. He can even turn a rich man away from his desire for riches and make that man live for the kingdom of God instead. He has done as much for many saints. So when the disciples asked, “Who then can be saved?” they were thinking the way humans think, not the way God thinks.
At first, “persecutions” don’t seem to belong with all the other things promised: “houses … lands”, etcetera. But Jesus does say we will receive these things in the present age, not in eternal life. He only mentions eternal life after mentioning all the gifts, and trials, we will receive by following him in this life. Elsewhere, Jesus says that God “causes his sun to rise on evil people as well as on those who are good, and his rain falls on both the righteous and the wicked” (Matthew 5:45). This may make it seem like following him, or not following him, winds up being a zero-sum game in the end. What difference does it make whether we follow Christ or not, if we are going to receive sunshine and rain either way? Christ’s answer comes in this Sunday’s Gospel passage. God cannot be outdone in generosity. While we may receive some sunshine when we do not follow Christ, that which we receive when we do is a hundred times greater. Also, while following Christ does come with its share of trials, these we bear out of love which makes them much more bearable and even bittersweet. Meanwhile, the trials we will inevitably receive when not following Christ usually come to us as a result of our own selfish pursuits. Love bears all things, so the persecutions that come with following Christ are better than the rain that comes when we live according to our own will.
We pursue the many riches of this world often without even thinking of how they will ultimately fall short of what we’re really after, because what we’re really after is you. Help us to recognize that the deepest desires on our hearts are really our desire for you, and--as St. Augustine says--our hearts are restless until they rest in you. Building a fulfilling relationship with you is impossible to do without your grace, because the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil will always tell us they have something better to offer us. Help us to notice that anyone who tells us there is something better than you in this life is not telling the truth. Many of us may not know it yet, but you are the only one who can satisfy the deepest longings on our hearts. In Jesus name. Amen.
Eternal life is all around us waiting to be embraced. The rich man in this Sunday’s Gospel failed to appreciate the gifts he was already given, and therefore was destined to always want more. He wasn’t willing to give up what he had already obtained, and as a result he would not be able to see the graces God already gave him, and gives us all; the law, his love, the prophets, nature, his son, the Holy Spirit. All of these gifts and more are right before us. We simply need to be silent and eliminate the clutter in our life somehow, even if just for a while, in order to recognize and appreciate these gifts more.
Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report.