Wisdom 7:7-11; Ps 90 Fill us with your love, O lord, and we will sing for joy; Hebrews 4:12-13; Mark 10:17-30
Here is a few words from Dostoyevski, "Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams."
Why is this a pertinent statement in light of today's readings.
Love in action ultimately has to choose, to make choices where as love in dreams can remain abstract, vague and comfortable without any real ramifications.
A recently came across this statistic that I thought truly enlightening and scary according to Peter Kreeft in is book Making Choices. A survey of highschool principals in 1958 asked the question: what are the main problems among your students? In 1958 the main problems were: not doing homework, not respecting property, leaving lights on and windows open, throwing spitballs, running though the halls. In 1988 the same question was posed and here are the answers given: abortion, AIDS, rape, drugs, fear of violence including guns and knives.
In a span of thirty years what has happen to our society?
I think for lack of better words again as Peter Kreeft diagnosis the issue, we have become moral wimps.
We speak about appropriate and inappropriate behaviors. We mention things as acceptable or unacceptable. But when is the last time anyone said this or that was "right" or "wrong?"
Choosing is hard for us because it means we have to discriminate one thing over another. Choosing is difficult because we will have to refuse this for that, saying no to one path in order to say yes to another.
Moral choices are not purely personal choices. Personal choices are relative to the individual. For instance "what shoes one wears" or "what one eats for dinner" are personal preference or choices. Moral choices are not relative to the individual but are about what is objectively right and objectively wrong. There is a standard that has been set before us.
Moral choices are personal in so far as a person has to make them and has responsibility for them. They are not "personal" in the sense that rightness and wrongness is relative to the person who makes them. The right and wrongness exist independently of the one making the choice.
We see this in today's second reading from the letter to the Hebrews.
We are told, 'the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two edge sword, penetrating even between spirit, joints, and marrow and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. no creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eye of him to whom we must render an account."
If there is a rendering of account then there must be a standard that has been raised. It does not rely on our personal preference as much as God's revelation through his son, Jesus, who offers us a personal invitation in today's gospel.
"You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."
It is obvious the young man knew with whom he was talking. The question he poses to Jesus provides the answer, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
Jesus repsonse reminds the young man that only God is good. So if he equates goodness with Jesus then he also equates divinity with Jesus. Jesus' question in return, "why do you call be good?" is a question about whether or not the young man is ready to embrace the identity of Jesus as the son of God.
This of course will have ramification in his life. If Jesus is who he says he is, then it is a game changer for all of us and the young man included.
For if Jesus is God then he alone illumines the path we must take not only for eternal life but happiness here and now.
The invitation to "come follow me" is ever more poignant.
Jesus is simply inviting the young man to make Jesus number one in his life.
If we put first things first than everything else will fall in place.
When we hear those words, "you are lacking in one thing" perhaps it is Jesus showing the young man that God is not number one in his life but rather all of his wealth and stuff is. In order for him to be ready for eternal life then God must be first above all else.
Approaching Jesus with opens hands, clutching nothing, is the only way to experience wholeness and freedom.
This is why the first reading is so important. Wisdom paves the way for the right ordering of life.
The book of wisdom falls fourth in the books attributed to Solomon in the Bible.
First there is the book of Proverbs in which knowledge is shown to lead to success. Then there is Ecclesiastes in which despair of temporal success arises due to the fact that death renders it all vain. Then in the song of songs the author discovers that love is stronger than death. But in the book of Wisdom it is understanding life from God's perspective that proves to be of upmost value.
Wisdom is deathless because it leads back to the source of life. A wise heart and mind is able to penetrate the deepest value of all things as seen from the highest vista, God's point of view.
We achieve perfection only in arriving at our end and our end is to be with God. Wisdom is granted so that the choices we make always point back to him as we journey in this life.
Detached from the material word we find freedom in our attachment to God.
In St Ignatian spirituality, St ignatius begins with the contemplation of the two standards as he calls them: the standard of Jesus or the standard of the world. The standard of Jesus leads to gratitude for we recognize we have received God's gifts for God's purpose and thus true freedom arises.
The standard of the world we focus on material stuff and our possession of it which ultimate puts the "I" at the center in which we think "my" stuff for "my" purpose and here the soul becomes enslaved no longer free.
Jesus invites the man to become aware of the two standards and to choose which will he serve.
It is a radical invitation that makes demands. It is the same radical invitation laid at our feet daily.
Which will we choose? Which have we chosen? Are we wimps or men and women of strength who let Jesus lead us onward.
"Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams" Love in action has to choose. What say you!
"Go. Sell all you have. Give to the poor. Come, follow me."
This is not just a personal invitation if Jesus is God rather it becomes an objective necessity. IT is from this position of following we discover our moral backbone and shed the skin go being wimps.
The stage is set for all of us and the drama is played out in our choices we make daily.