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Ordinary Time 28 (B)
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Readings for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

1. Wisdom 7, 7-11

  • The writer is referring to something he really wants, and brings to my mind the request of Solomon.  I preferred her more than anything else.  Let me rehearse until I reach that same single-mindedness in my reading. 
  • I prayed, I pleaded.  Wisdom is there for the taking.  We only have to be ready and ask.  The New Testament is also full of appeals to open ourselves to grace.
  • I preferred her, I loved her, I chose to have her.  Like so much of the book of Wisdom, it sounds like a consumer advertisement, or perhaps one of those many testimonials on television.  I can fill in the blank with some material good or feeling.  But let me raise the intensity now, for I speak of union with God.
  • I listen and acknowledge with my voice all the goods and states of life that the author mentions – scepter and throne, riches, priceless gems, gold, silver, health and comeliness, light.  I will not disparage them; I appreciate their value in the eyes of humankind.  It is only that life with God, divine wisdom, is far greater than any of them: The splendor of her never yields to sleep.
  • The last sentence is the kicker.  It reminds us of the good fortune that was said to fall upon Solomon.  All good preachers can convince us that the reward of this kind of selfless longing for God is beyond our imagination.  Let me rise to the occasion.  All good things together came to me in her company. 
  • Central point: Only union with God and wonder at God’s goodness will satisfy our longing.  All gold, in view of her, is a little sand. 
  • Message for our assembly: Do we believe what we are hearing?  That gold in our bracelets and in our safe deposit boxes: just grains of sand?  Will we remember this the next time we see an advertisement for something we do not already have?
  • I will challenge myself: to declare the words as if I am Solomon today, sharing with my listeners something that I myself have grown to appreciate.

 

2. Hebrews 4, 12-13

  • The word of God is living.  Stop there!  Once I chanted this passage more in the spirit of an air than a recitative, repeating words that deserved repetition.  As a reader I do not have that freedom to repeat, but I can pause at the right places.
  • The reading is very short but penetrating.  It describes the word of God, that word that the Hebrew testament says will achieve its purpose.  I remember the account of the creation, in which God spoke and it came to be. 
  • Living, effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating, discerning. Every description of God’s word comes to me with a sudden impact.  Let me look for a way to convey them with impact in our assembly.  I think of a knifing scene in the first Godfather movie, and that image may help me.
  • The word has cut the listener very deeply, between soul and spirit, joints and marrow.  I cannot rush this if I want my listeners to feel the effect.  Everything is naked and exposed – to the eyes of God.  If I believe this, I will take my time and let it sink into our consciousness.  I have added a pause, because the sentence is long and because the exposure is especially to God.
  • The more I think about it, the more I realize that these first two readings take us to a dimension of life on which we seldom reflect.  They could describe an individual’s conversion experience or rebirth.  But they are spoken not in a “movement” retreat to isolated groups of believers, but to all the churches today.  They invite all believers to pay heed, to ponder their meaning. 
  • Central point: God’s words are not throwaways like ours.  They have a profound purpose and they achieve it.
  • The message for our assembly: This is not a matter of evil eyes and other children’s fables.  God wants our lives to be dedicated to the eternal truths.  And we must render an account to the Lord, whether or not we pay attention now. 
  • I will challenge myself: To find the right combination of intensity and pauses, so that my listeners will hear and remember.

 

Gospel. Mark 10, 17-30

  • You know the commandments.  And then, You are lacking in one thing.  Why did Jesus invite the rich young man to go beyond the commandments?  That is the driving force of this reading.  I picture the scene before me.  On one side are Jesus and his disciples, with their lightweight walking clothes, clearly worn and dusty from much travel.  On the other the man who ran up from his home, wearing the trappings of the city and much cleaner.  Visibly speaking, he is not a good fit. 
  • Jesus, looking at him, loved him.  He saw in this man the makings of a disciple, and invited him to join them.  Go, sell what you have, then come, follow me.  This reminds me of the children who say that they want to be astronauts, to climb Mount Everest, or be Olympic champions.  We tell them what they will have to do, which is to dedicate everything they have to prepare themselves.  So Jesus answers the man who had many possessions just as we do in our lives.
  • Part two of the reading follows.  How hard is it for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!  When I think that my store of wealth and comfort – if not personal power and authority – surpasses that of the greatest rulers of the past, I have to wonder what Christ’s verdict will be on me.  I should have no misgivings to look upon the congregation as I say the words.  Let them be amazed; after all, the disciples were amazed.
  • A camel to pass through the eye of a needle  an exaggeration, or did Jesus really mean it?  Didn’t the man go away?  It should lead me to reflect from the comfort of my seat in the assembly, from my seat in my car, from my firm bed.  Don’t I want to remain in control, or will I let God’s priorities take over?  For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.  All things are possible for God.  I want them to hear this in all its repetition, and believe it deeply.  
  • I have to admire the evangelist for his honesty about the rewards of following Jesus.  Yes, we acquire a larger family, a hundred times more in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands but with persecutions!  Let me find the voice to speak this so that my listeners interpret it the right way, not like those professional ministers who really expect to be set up in style for their paltry labors.
  • Climax: How hard!  It is spoken twice, both times with disappointment and with an awareness of the divine wisdom we already heard. 
  • Message for our assembly: How hard will it be for us?  Are our loyalties divided? 
  • I will challenge myself: To rediscover the story line behind the Master’s teaching.

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