TWENTY EIGHTH SUNDAY- Year B – 14 October

The RSV of the Scriptures is one of the translations which take from original sources (‘witnesses’ is the word more properly used) in THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL EXTRACT [MARK 10: 17 – 30], the translation which includes the word TRUST. So, we read, in the second instance, Jesus saying “how hard it is for those who trust in riches …” The KNOX version, I suspect, actually presents the fuller picture of the Lord’s focus.

“… with what difficulty will those who have riches enter God’s kingdom! The disciples were amazed … but Jesus gave them a second answer … how hard it is for those who trust in riches …”

In this first instance notice that Jesus’ words are not a question but a statement of fact. THERE IS A REAL DIFFICULTY INVOLVED. Then, comes the amplification which tells us that the basic difficulty involved is compounded for those who TRUST in their possessions.

Here we should all have some sort of certainty that the truly wealthy usually adopt an attitude regarding status and power. Not only will there often be illusions of grandeur, but the adoption of the belief that they are in control. In so far as this attitude prevails, the Lord God descends, at the best, into second place. THIS IS THE DIFFICULTY.

The situation is compounded when the ‘horde’ accumulated (and accumulating!) becomes the ‘thing’ which is, primarily trusted. Then, there emerges the tendency that because all is well, and will remain so, there is no need to TRUST IN THE LORD. Everything is under control – no need to acknowledge any other source other than personal expertise. Why is it that it is the mega-rich who very often spend great time and effort in tax-avoidance?! As Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and the rich man explains, the rich all too often become insensitive (at best) or blind (at worst) to the needs of other!

However, we should be clear that it is not only the Bank Balance which governs the difficulty. It is also true that those who might not be listed among the world’s ten richest people but who enjoy the wealth of status and power by virtue of their position of leadership and authority also fall into both difficulties as the status and power are manipulated to enhance personal security and sense of well-being. This phenomenon is also visible within the Church (including parish life and ministry) itself.

In all of this, the opening verse of THIS SUNDAY’S PSALM [90 or 89) proclaims the basic message that we must learn “to number our days that we may gain wisdom of heart.” In addition, the extract concludes with the repetition of thewords, “give success to the work of our hands.” Here there is a pertinent reminder to all of us that it is GOD WHO IS CONTROLbut we have to acknowledge it in immediate, practical, and realistic terms.

The Psalm’s reference to wisdom, together with all that has been said, is given a powerful, and very clear, application in THIS SUNDAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [WISDOM 7: 7 – 11]. There we read, “I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with her … neither did I liken to her any priceless gem, because all gold is but a little sand in her sight, and silver will be accounted as clay before her.” Everything is said in these words. In addition, if more is really necessary, do not overlook the closing words of OUR NEW TESTAMENT EXTRACT [HEBREWS 4: 12 – 13],where we read that “before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” Truly, we must all learn, that first and foremost we have to deal with God-in-Christ. Here lies the real difficulty with those who accumulate, and trust in, their wealth (status, privilege and power included).

{Historical note = there was one gate into the city of Jerusalem which was only wide enough for people. It was impossible for camels always loaded with ‘treasure for sale’ to pass through. Be wary of the amount of baggage you carry!}