Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 11, 2009. The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/readings/101109.shtml. Thanks for reading and all of your feedback! Fr. Jim
What more do you want????
You ever feel like saying that?
Maybe it’s to the professor who seems to pile more homework on top of already assigned papers with exams looming in the not too distant future - forgetting that you have four other classes...
Maybe it’s to your boss who isn’t so much as “suggesting” as much as “expecting” that you’ll work more - (perhaps without even getting the money or recognition you deserve for the extra work)
Maybe it’s to family members who put whatever ethnicity-you’re-from guilt on you for a variety of reasons (we Italians think we’ve got this market cornered. We might have perfected the guilt factor, but I have to say, I’ve seen other nationalities do pretty well in this realm).
We all seem, at one point or another, to get exasperated or stressed or pushed to a breaking point. We feel we’ve done all we could - we don’t have another ounce to give and if someone (anyone) comes forward with one more request, suggestion or demand we’re going to snap and say “WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT?”
In reading this Gospel passage I sense that this young man, and even the apostles, are in a similar position. They might be acting respectful by not saying it, but you can almost read their minds - they’re almost at the breaking point and they want to say “WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT, JESUS?”
This rich man approaches Jesus with a question of eternal importance: What must I do for eternal life? Because he’s a wealthy individual, it seems that he’s a practical, successful type of individual. Perhaps he’s a businessman - “Jesus I’d like to confirm my reservation for eternity? Deluxe suite please. If we review my record, I’d like to make sure everything’s covered. As you know, I haven’t killed anyone... no adultery, either – looks good, huh? Maybe I can get a penthouse in this eternal kingdom you keep talking about....”
Jesus, lovingly looks at the rich man and says, “Yeah, you’re doing the right things, but maybe not entirely for the right reasons. You want the deluxe room? You want eternal life? You can experience it all right now... Sell all your riches and come follow me.”
The guy leaves.
It’s almost as if he’s saying “I could have killed a couple of people or committed some other sins that seemed kind of attractive at the time, and I didn’t... WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT???”
And, interestingly, the Apostles seem a bit perplexed as well. Confused probably because they had mistakenly seen wealth and abundance as signs of God “taking care of someone.” So here they were. They had left all they had behind. Fishing careers, government jobs, maybe not the most exhilarating things in our minds, but hey, they liked their jobs, they paid the bills, they took care of things. So they had left all of those things, and now they hear Jesus tell this wealthy guy – maybe the richest person they’ve seen in a long time – to give all that up and follow Jesus. To join the rest of this materially poor group.
Maybe Peter was getting a bit frustrated with the lack of accommodations, security, wealth, power or prestige that those in authority are used to. Instead, Peter and the crew are basically waiting for the next miracle for their next meal. And so he kind of barks out - We have given up everything and followed you – or - What more do you want?
For the rich man, the apostles, for you and I - eternal life, being a disciple, following Jesus - it’s not only about doing all the right things, avoiding the wrong things (or hoping that God didn’t see it when we screwed up)
We follow the commandments that God gave us because we recognize the goodness of them. That they are (as the popular Protestant preacher Dr. Robert Schuller once said) commands meant for our happiness. And when we follow them - we start to see how they are designed to get us in touch with the Father’s heart. Breaking the commandments isn't about breaking the Father’s law as much as it's about His heart.
When we follow them, they bring us closer to God. And what Jesus sees in the young man and the apostles is people who DO see the goodness of the commandments - the rightness in walking in the light - and that they follow them, and they struggle, and they try and they fail and they pick themselves up again and try and they keep going.
Jesus looks at that with Love. He looks at us with Love He’s trying to help us by giving us the key. Why do we struggle? Why do we fall? Why do we make the wrong choices when we know what is right? Why does temptation still wreak havoc in our lives when we know that when we choose not to go down those paths God has laid out for us, they are designed to do just that, wreak havoc?
Because we’re still not detached enough from the things of this world. Jesus is saying “Rich guy - you want the joy that comes from being a righteous man - you must drop that gold that you're clinging to in your hand in order to grab my hand”
For Peter and the apostles he’s saying - “Look guys, you must drop these ideas in your heads that following the Messiah is going to lead to some powerful reign where you are going to be “taken care of” in the possessions and positions the world deems as signs of greatness... the reality is you’re already being taken care of.”
He’s asking us what is it that’s holding us back? Am I rich in popularity, in friendships? Or am I rich in gifts and talents? Maybe I'm a person of considerable intellect and smarts? Instead of asking God “What more do you want” the proper question we need to ask is Do we want any of those things more than what Jesus wants for us, namely to experience eternal life now? Do we want these riches, or do we want Jesus Himself?