October 11, 2012
Reflection on the Sunday's readings: Daniel
Daniel's previous reflections
Jesus fails – Mark 10:17-31
J. Sider published a book entitled, Rich
Christians in an age of hunger (1977). He
argues that the wealth of Christians has outpaced their generosity, and as
followers of Christ they cannot close their eyes to the reality of hunger and
poverty in the world; it is supposed to be their challenge and responsibility.
The Gospel of Mark contains a story which, on its surface, seems to convey the
same conclusion: wealth blinds our eyes to the challenge of following Christ.
challenge of the story
The story about that rich man was told and retold in the community of the first Christians who were daily exposed to persecutions. During those times to be a follower of Christ was not an easy thing. One could loose everything and even forfeit his/her life. “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insults and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions” (Hebrews 10:32-34).
rich man came to Jesus asking about “eternal life.” The first Christians
were composed of the people who searched for deeper meaning in life. Whether
rich or poor, sinner or outcast, they came to Jesus, because He had something to
offer. The rich man epitomizes that search: he is wealthy and he fulfills the
commandments; and yet he is not happy. This is the first disturbing point of
this story: if wealth is so desirable by many, why is this man not contented
with his life? And if keeping the commandments is sufficient to gain salvation,
why does he still have to ask about “inheriting eternal life”?
even the commandments
The majority of us live in different times and circumstances. We do not experience persecutions; we are not asked to give up everything for Jesus by our church leaders; and along the journey of life, Jesus and His gospel are not sufficient for giving up such important things like riches and family. We live as anybody else; we do not rise above the standards of the world. The Barna Group – a research company based in California - conducted in the US (2003) a survey that involved 10,000 people across all major Christian denominations. The findings were shocking. Despite 84% of the population declaring themselves as Christians, the proportions of people who contend that cohabitation (60%), adultery (42%), sexual relations between homosexuals (30%), abortion (45%), pornography (38%), the use of profanity (36%) and gambling (61%) are “morally acceptable” behaviors has considerably risen over the years. Among all Christian denominations, Catholics were leading in condoning gambling, sexual fantasies, and cohabitation. We were also at the top in considering drunkenness, sexual relationship outside marriage, same sex relationship and abortion as morally acceptable choices in life.
these I have kept since I was a boy,” was the response of the rich man to
Jesus’ challenge of obeying God’s commandments. In view of the above
mentioned survey, we cannot compare ourselves with the man from the Gospel. If
we are honest, we ought to admit that “all these we have broken since we were
boys/girls.” And yet, the whole story takes us into a much higher level,
namely that of following Christ. Jesus’ demands the impossible:
“One thing you lack . . . Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven. Then, come and follow me.” Christianity
does not settle on commandments. Our faith claims that only in following Jesus
one can find fulfillment in life or – putting it in more biblical terms –
“inherit eternal life,” or “enter the kingdom of God.” No material
possessions, neither our attempts to live by the commandments can quench the
thirst of our hearts for a life filled with passion and meaning. However,
following Jesus demands leaving behind everything and embarking on the unknown.
This brings us to the second disturbing point of the story. It is the only
incident recorded in the Gospel when Jesus’ call was not heeded.
They met on the net. He posted his picture and she got attracted. They exchanged emails and spent hours chatting via Skype, but they never met off line. Then, he proposed and she accepted. What an act of faith; what courage! She left behind everything and off she went to follow her husband to his country.
Unlike that ‘brave’ woman, the rich man was unable to leave behind his riches and embark on an unknown journey of following Christ. We can imagine what could have crossed the mind of this man hearing Jesus’ response to his search. Fear, worry, and doubts overtook his mind and heart and led him to turn around and go back to his house. It is also the case with the majority of us. Home, riches, family give security; following Christ entails a risk. It takes us beyond our comfort zones into the unknown and unpredictable. It is here that our fears and doubts paralyze our hearts and we are unable to move. The only thing we can hold on to is our trust in Jesus, yet it is so difficult to trust, when He demands everything. Paralyzed by our fears and doubts, we forget about His promise: “I tell you the truth . . . no one who has left [something] . . . for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age . . . and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30).
rich man went away sad. Many of us walk sad through life as well. The story
seems to convey the message that nothing will be able to satisfy our hearts
except a total commitment to Christ.
encounter between Jesus and the rich young man is not really about wealth and
poverty. It is about the challenge of following Jesus. Whether it is wealth or
moral standards of the world that contradict Jesus’ teaching, we are faced
with a decision for or against Jesus. Moreover, the challenge of following the
Lord goes far beyond the Ten Commandments. The Magna Charta of Christianity is
written in the Gospel of Matthew (5:3-10) and is known as the Beatitudes:
Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . .
Blessed are those who mourn . . . .
Blessed are the meek . . . .
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness . . . .
Blessed are the merciful . . . .
Blessed are the pure in heart . . . .
Blessed are the peacemakers . . . .
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness . . . .