Today’s readings remind us to put nothing ahead of God in our lives, because God is the giver of all true goods. God, in Jesus, always invites us to follow him.
The gospel — Mark10:17-30 — tells us one more time that we should not be attached to our possessions. Regrettably, the rich young man doesn’t accept Jesus’ invitation to sell all, give to the poor, and follow him. This is not an invitation which is given to all: it was given to a particular individual in a particular situation, but it is still an invitation worth thinking about.
If Jesus isn’t commanding all of us to sell all we have and give to the poor so we can be his disciples, what does this event mean. Why does he say it’s difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God? I think it’s because it’s easy to become attached to our possessions to the point that they take first place in our lives. Love of God and love of neighbor — with all they imply — should come first. I need to ask myself always how selfish I am.
The young man serves as an example of excessive attachment to possessions, but even those who are not rich can be excessively attached to what they have or excessively concerned about getting more, beyond the true necessities of life. So Jesus says it’s hard for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God, but then he expands it to say simply that it is hard to enter the kingdom. In fact, it’s so hard to get into the kingdom that we can’t do it.
“For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” Nobody gets into the kingdom of God on his own power. That’s why we need Jesus. What’s impossible for us by ourselves is possible with Jesus, when we have faith in him as our savior, when we follow him.
The first reading — Wisdom 7:7-11 — is presented as the words of King Solomon. He has the right idea. He doesn’t pray for power or wealth. He prays for wisdom, which is an attribute of God, a direct gift of God, a grace from God. We should pray as he did: not for power or riches, but for whatever graces we need to draw closer to others and to God.
The responsorial psalm — Ps 90:12-17 — reminds us of the variable course of our lives and leads us to pray for God’s gracious blessing in all circumstances.
Our second reading — Hebrews 4:12-13 — reminds us that God sees into our very being. We can ask him to let us see ourselves as he sees us. We can ask for the wisdom to know how we can cooperate even more with his grace. We may all already be cooperating with God’s grace, but none of us is perfect, so we should ask for the wisdom to know what can improve in us and in our behavior.
We all have a personal invitation from Jesus — something that will help us follow him better, become better people. Should we be more generous and hospitable with what we have? Should be less critical of others or compliment them more? Should we be more available to people who need to talk to us or spend time with us? Should we work harder, or should we work less? Should we spend less time watching TV or on other entertainment and more time doing something useful? Is there something else in our lives that takes us away from love of God or active love of neighbor? Should we spend more quiet time in prayer? Those are a few examples of things that could be an invitation from Jesus. We can ask God to show us our personal invitation.
Jesus is always inviting is to follow him more closely, in our sorrows, and in our joys, in good times and bad. The specifics of the invitation my change as we change and as times change. The invitation may seem easy or hard. It may be something that will take time, even a long time. But we shouldn’t be like the young man and go away sad. We shouldn’t get discouraged. Instead, let’s ask him to help us by giving us the strength we need to accept his invitation.
Edited to add: Although Jesus’ invitation to the young man involved the most radical detachment, making possible the most radical generosity — a degree of detachment and generosity to which few are called — we are all called to detachment and generosity (which is possible only to the extent of our detachment from our possessions), as well as to whatever particular changes Jesus invites us in order to follow him better.