Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B

Fr. Joseph L. Farrell, O.S.A..jpg

Joseph L. Farrell, O.S.A.
Vicar General
Curia Generalizia Agostiniana
Rome, Italy

Readings
Wis 7:7-11
Ps 90:12-13, 14-15, 16-17
Heb 4:12-13
Mk 10:17-30

Imagine, if you will, two people about to begin a journey. One begins to plan by arranging how to arrive at the destination and what path to choose to get there. The other begins to plan by accumulating a list of favorite possessions to carry along the way. They are following parallel paths towards the same destination. The one who has planned how to get to the destination is like the protagonist in the first reading from the book of Wisdom who prayed for prudence and the spirit of wisdom, instead of carrying and protecting an accumulation of treasures. Wisdom, here, is described as more precious than any riches that can be acquired. Our prudent traveler is dependent on the other travelers along the way and builds loving, non-possessive, and reciprocal relationships with every encounter. 

The other traveler on our imaginary journey, the one who has accumulated a list of favorite possessions and things to carry along the journey, unfortunately is not willing to build relationships with others for fear of losing the security that protects all the treasured possessions. This second traveler can be compared to the man in today’s Gospel who approaches Jesus to ask what he must do to follow him on his journey, or what he must do to inherit eternal life. We discover that Jesus’ response to the man is that he is to become detached from his accumulated possessions, give to the poor, and then to follow him. This was too much to ask of the man and he went away sad. It was not the fact that the man had many possessions that prevented him from following Jesus. It was his inability to be detached from them and share them in a way that would free him from his burden and allow him to follow Christ on the journey to eternal life, the life he wished to inherit.

The Gospel passage includes something that could easily be overlooked at a quick reading. It states clearly that Jesus loved the man. From the Gospel of Mark we read: “Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him….” Yet the man attached to all the possessions could not enter into a reciprocal relationship of love with Jesus and follow along the journey he was about to begin. The man was living a good life and avoided all the “do not” commandments, but he remained attached to the possessions that he had and was unable to break from them, build relationships with the poor by selling those possessions, so as to create space to completely love Jesus. The journey to the reward of eternal life is a journey of encountering Christ along the journey by sharing life with those who are traveling with us. Many times, that includes letting go of our security, whether that security is obtained by material possessions, or perhaps positions of power, prestige, or privilege.

Today, October 10th, 2021, in Vatican City, the universal Church officially opens Synod 2021-2023, with the theme, “For a synodal Church: communion, participation, mission.”  Next week, this process will officially begin in dioceses around the world. With this synodal process we are all called and encouraged to participate as brothers and sisters who walk together on this journey. A synod is an opportunity to journey together, and so all of us are being called to share what we have on this journey. The synod will guide us to reflect on responsibility, relationships, participation and practices that guide us on the way as we follow Christ, as members of the church, and we make our journey toward the priceless inheritance of eternal life.

There is a proverb attributed to the Chinese Philosopher, Lao Tzu: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The synodal process of 2021-2023, is one that begins with a single step of looking around and seeing our brothers and sisters who are on the way with us and accepting the invitation to encounter each other and join in the journey by walking together. We are invited to follow Christ on this journey, like the man Christ loved who was seeking to inherit eternal life, and we ask Christ to assist us on the way and develop ways by which we can free ourselves from that which we have become accustomed to carry with us and that prevents us from encountering each other, especially the poor, the vulnerable, and those without power. Our Gospel teaches us that it is in those relationships where we most often encounter and follow Christ. We unite our prayers with all members of the universal church as we begin our synodal process of walking together, as brothers and sisters, on the journey.