Deacon Cornellís Homily


Wis 7:7-11
Heb 4:12-13
Mk 10:17-30


October 14, 2012 Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle B

Today's Gospel passage is probably one of the five most uncomfortable passages to listen to. If we really listen to what Jesus is saying and try to apply it to ourselves it really challenges us. What is it that keeps us from following Jesus?

As I was getting dressed for church last Sunday I was trying to decide which of the 3 short-sleeved white golf shirts to wear. They are pretty much the same except one has a pocket, one has a diaconate logo, and the other is plain, no pocket. I thought of that when I was reading today's gospel and it made me think of all the possessions I am blessed with. I have a very nice house with a pool that is pretty big for just Betsy and I, three cars (although my grandson is driving one of them), two 12-string and two 6-string guitars, so many computers and android devices that I am thinking of devoting one of them to keeping track of all the others, and so on. After reflecting on what Jesus says to the man in the Gospel I came to the decision that I am giving away one of those white short-sleeved golf shirts!

Of course this is not a Gospel story that means we all have to sell everything we have and enter the Franciscans. Nor is it the case as it was over the last few weeks that Jesus is using hyperbole. The key phrase is that Jesus looked at him, and loved him. Love is never generic, or general; it is always specific, person to person. Jesus challenges each of us specifically to look at what keeps us personally from following him whole heartedly. More than the possession aspect, here is what challenges me about this story.

Jesus initial response to the man is to list the commandments, and the man's answer is that he follows all of those. Yet that is not enough. One of the other uncomfortable Gospel passages for me is the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector in the temple. The Pharisee is giving thanks to God for all he does to follow the law, fasting, praying, keeping the commandments, and tithing, and that he is not like the tax collector. The tax collector is hiding in the back, on his face asking God for forgiveness for being a sinner. Jesus tells us that the tax collector is the one who is justified. For a long time I found it hard to truthfully say that I am a sinner. Like the man in today's gospel, I pretty much keep the commandments: I haven't killed anyone in a while, I try to tell the truth, I don't steal (not even online music files). So how can I say I am a sinner? Only gradually did I start to understand that obeying the commandments or following the rules is not the goal, or even the primary measure of whether we are sinners. To sin means to miss the mark. Is breaking a commandment missing the mark? Sure but that is just a small part of it. To use a sports metaphor, it is like a basketball coach telling a player: don't foul, don't throw the ball away, don't lose your dribble, don't goal tend, and so on. Are those important rules to know? Sure. But if all I do is not break the rules, I am not necessarily a good basketball player. I can keep all those rules and miss that mark by a wide margin. In fact I can make sure I never break any of those rules by sitting on the bench the whole game; an interesting metaphor when talking about following Christ!

The mark we aim for as Christians, as Catholics, is to love the way Jesus loves. I miss that mark by a wide margin, even though I am not breaking any commandments. Once I realized that, I can honestly and humbly pray: Forgive me Lord, for I am a sinner.

We are so blessed by God who gives us everything we need to follow Christ. What keeps us from doing that? From being full, active, and conscious participants in our mission to help bring about the Kingdom of God? That is subject matter for a lot of prayer for all of us. I would just like to touch on one tiny aspect as we gather today for this celebration of the Eucharist. In a few moments, many of us will come forward to share in the supper of the Lord. We will have an opportunity to encounter Christ, in the flesh, so intimately it is beyond comprehension. But sadly for most of us, we will not even come close to the fullness that is possible. What will block us from that? Have I cleared my mind of all the distractions and worries of the day to focus on this encounter with Christ? Have I truly and honestly repented of my sins, preferably by going to confession recently? Do I truly and fully believe that I am about to eat the real flesh and drink the real blood of Jesus Christ? Do I see that oneness with Christ in those around me here who are doing the same? Am I fully opening my heart and my soul and my body to the urging of the Spirit and the probing of Jesus? If I am truthful, my answer to most of those questions is: not really, not fully.

Part of my prayer this morning is that I let the spirit move me closer, no matter how slightly, towards an Amen, a total Yes. Like the man in today's Gospel, my face falls at the realization that I cannot fully say Yes. But unlike him, I am not walking away. The rest of my prayer is that you stay here with me; because with God it is possible.

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