Give It To The Poor: Homilies For October 11, 2015, the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
There is nothing unclear in what Jesus says in Mark 10: 17-30-if you want eternal life “sell what you have and give it to the poor….then come, follow me”. This passage, also addressed to the rich young man or the rich young ruler,the important man, is also found in Matthew 19: 16-30 and Luke 18:18-29. In consideration of the feelings of the rich, and most of us who have enough, we do many theological dances that ultimately miss what Jesus is saying. We glorify spiritual poverty, for example. We raise dependency on God as a supreme value but we also then overlook Jesus’ actual concern for people who were poor and outcast. We glorify poverty instead of work hard with those affected to do away with it. We also apply these passages mainly to those called to follow Jesus in religious life with vows of poverty to earn this spiritual poverty. But, we miss the call to all of us who follow the Gospel to depend on God in this way and , moreover, to share our goods and resources with the poor among us so that there will be no more poor.This indeed is the essence of Acts 3:44-47 and Acts 4: 34-35 where the apostles and all followers understood what Jesus meant and shared their resources freely and there were no poor among them. This is the spirit of the Gospel- Jesus came to “…preach good news to the poor, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…” (Luke 4:14-20), This job description in fulfillment of prophecy and Law is not metaphorical or abstract. Jesus lived under Roman oppression and the poor and many outcast in his culture and under Roman rule were consigned to the bottom of the heap with no hope of moving up from there. Jesus defied that structure and included the poorest and most outcast in his love and ministry. He also consistently asked his followers to follow the Law of Moses but go one better, to go beyond the letter of the Law to the spirit of the Law.
To follow Jesus and to enjoy the fullness of life now and forever, is to remove one’s self from the center of concern and share all of one’s resources, money, gifts and goods with those who struggle for subsistence so that they will be poor no more. In this there is no idealization or glorification of poverty, and no real damnation of riches if they are shared fully, but the charge is to fulfill the Law by giving more than a small percentage of one’s income or one’s self and to go farther. Jesus acknowledges that the seeker of life (rich young person) already keeps the Law. He loves this person who is struggling to be a good person. The Law includes many commandments about treating the poor fairly. Jesus wants us to go the next step. To follow Jesus we are asked time and again and in many ways: give it all away-give yourself away, then you will find yourself and then you receive the fullness of life. To do this only in the abstract with out realizing that Jesus strongly said to give, share with, be committed to, align with, and struggle with and not only for those who are economically poor is to miss the point of the Gospel-to bring God’s kin(g)dom here on earth. Justice , love and inclusion are the hoped for outcome in the kingdom of God and also the processes by which it is to come. Tzedak, Tzedakah and Chesed, justice and charity and lovingkindness in Hebrew, are the essence of the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy). Justice and Chesed/ Caritas, the kind of love that gives it all away is the essence of the Gospel. Jesus gave his life so the kin(g)dom of God may come and the sins that deter it be addressed. Sin goes beyond our mis-steps in our near relationships, however serious these may be. Sin most strongly relates to creating, tolerating and participating in those conditions of injustice, exclusion,oppression,greed, discrimination,ethnocentrism and often hatred that create a world in which only some are “worthy” of love and equality and a very few have a lot and most have very little-our world today. Today we are asked by Jesus to commit ourselves to actions that end injustice here in our world, in our families and our near communities and throughout the world. As Pope Francis said to the shepherds of the church, we are to get down in the nitty gritty with the sheep so that we smell of sheep. Yet,we are all to shepherd one another, to literally walk with and stand with the poor and outcast of our communities to move on up together and take others with us. We are to give ourselves and our money and gifts and resources all away in pursuit of the kin(g)dom of God where there will be poor no more.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Co-Pastor of the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida
Part of The Good Shepherd Community with Co-Pastors Judy Beaumont and Judy Lee, RCWP
And here is an insightful homily by Fr. Gerald Darring on a similar theme for today’s Gospel and Readings. I love his quote about avarice as “moral underdevelopment:
|The rich man wants to have it both ways: he wants his possessions and he wants everlasting life. Jesus shatters his illusion; you can’t have both, Jesus says. The rich man goes away sad, prompting Jesus to comment on the difficulty of being rich and entering the kingdom.
There is more to this story than renunciation of material possessions, for Jesus does not tell the man simply to get rid of his possessions: he must sell them and give to the poor. The point of the command is the acknowledgment of the priority of people and their needs over the satisfaction provided by the ownership of things.
This is “God’s word (that) is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword,” and this is the spirit of Wisdom of which the first reading speaks: we are to value each other as if we were prime possessions, and the promise of everlasting life is made to those who have the power to give all they have to their brothers and sisters, especially those most in need.
Then who can be saved? Those whose love for God expresses itself in eagerness to do good for others.
Now published in book form, To Love and Serve: