This Sunday's Readings
Wisdom is preferred above gold and silver.
The Lord fills us with love and joy.
The Word of God exposes the heart.
Mark 10:17-30 (shorter form Mark 10:17-27)
A man with many possessions asks Jesus what he must do to gain eternal life.
Background on the Gospel Reading
Today we continue reading the Gospel of Mark from where we left off last Sunday. Last Sunday our Gospel told how Jesus was tested by the Pharisees about the requirements for divorce. Recall that these chapters come from the second part of Mark's Gospel, which chronicles the beginning of Jesus' journey to Jerusalem.
In today's Gospel, an unnamed man approaches Jesus and inquires about what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus replies that one must follow the commandments of the Law of Moses. The man acknowledges that he has observed all of these since his childhood. Jesus then says that only one thing is lacking: he must give his possessions to the poor and follow Jesus. The man leaves in sadness, and Mark tells us that this is because he had many possessions.
The belief in resurrection and eternal life was a relatively recent development in Jewish thought at Jesus' time, and it wasn't shared by everyone. The Pharisees taught that there would be a resurrection from the dead; the Sadducees did not share this belief. Jesus taught that there would be a final judgment for everyone and eternal life (the Kingdom of God) for believers.
Jesus makes two requirements of the wealthy man who approaches him. First, he must give up his possessions. Throughout history, some Christians have taken this literally. Their example witnesses to us a radical commitment to the Gospel of Jesus. Some have read this as a particular requirement directed to this specific individual. Still others have sought to explain the meaning intended by the word possessions as those things that prevent one from following Jesus. Christians have generally understood that at the least, following Jesus requires that believers hold material possessions loosely and remain vigilant against seeking security in accumulating possessions.
The second requirement Jesus makes of this man is the invitation that Jesus extends to all would-be disciples: “follow me.” Jesus very much wants this man to be his disciple. We believe that the Christian faith is one in which each believer is in a personal relationship with Jesus. Just as this Gospel tells us that Jesus loves the man and is sad when he departs, so too, Jesus loves us and is saddened when we are unable to follow him.
We see in this Gospel reading another example of Mark's pattern, which shows Jesus offering further elaboration about his message and meaning to his disciples. To his disciples, Jesus laments the challenges faced by those who are rich in following him and entering the Kingdom of God. In reply to the disciples' astonishment at the strictness of the standard that Jesus speaks about today, Jesus reminds his disciples that nothing is impossible with God. Salvation is determined by our ability to rely completely upon God.
Peter replies to Jesus by boasting that the disciples have already given up everything. Jesus acknowledges that those who have given up everything for the sake of the Gospel will be rewarded. This reward begins now, in the new community that one will gain in this life, and will continue in the eternal age to come. Our personal relationship with Jesus is also an invitation to the community of faith, the Church.