Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Our gospel today confronts us with the ancient rivalry between riches and reign of God. The longer form of today’s gospel has three messages: the story of the rich/sad young man, the image of the camel and the eye of the needle, and sayings about the rewards of discipleship. The shorter form leaves out this third part. What is at work here is a radical teaching about the Christian attitude to wealth and social ethics. And all of this takes place on the way to Jerusalem. In the first story we meet Jesus as a real human being, a prophet who is not moved by flattery but is concerned to teach people about God, the Good One, the Holy One. Note the personal nature of the man’s question and Jesus’ reply. Jesus invites the man to a new stage of spiritual development. It is by going to God alone that the good is found. Attitudes to wealth and attachments to wealth need to be radically changed if the disciple is serious about journeying into God and the fullness of life. The camel story also underlines the same issues: does attachment to wealth make discipleship difficult or impossible? Are we dealing with a camel squeezing through a side gate or a rope trying to pass through the eye of an actual needle? And the rewards of discipleship? The answer is paradoxical: blessings and persecutions.

 

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

We should not hear this gospel as a sentimental romanticizing or idealizing of children, but as an embrace of Jesus for all those who have so status, no claims to make, no power to wield, and so are receptive to the great gift that is offered – the kingdom of God.  With what have we been touched: with the distorted hope of the disciples for power, or with willingness to be “little ones” who are open to and receptive of the reigning presence of God?

 

Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was teaching his disciples. He had already rebuked their weakness in faith describing them as an unbelieving generation. Now he began to teach them about humility in service taking a little child as his example. His message is, anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me. It is at this point that we begin today’s passage. Note what happens. It is as if John interrupts Jesus, drawing attention to himself. It is as if he is trying to change the subject, as if he is resisting what Jesus is trying to say. Try an experiment. Open your Bible and read Mark 9:35-37, then skip John’s story and Jesus’ reply about the cup of water to read verses 42-48. The message is clear: to forbid the exorcist is akin to making a little one stumble! In our day the Church has colluded with much suffering among the little ones and the vulnerable and needs to meditate long and hard on Mark’s teaching. Are we open-minded disciples on the way who understand the paradox of the child or mean-spirited disciples getting in people’s way? Are we approachable, truly open to Jesus’ way or are we seeking to impose our own more rigid and exclusive visions? Or do we continue to collude with corruption and cover-up? The time for changing the subject like John is long over!

 

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Czech theologian Tomas Halik says, “If we never had the feeling that what Jesus wants of us is absurd, crazy, and impossible, then we’ve probably either been too hasty in taming or diluting the radical nature of his teaching with soothing intellectualizing interpretations, or have too easily forgotten to what extent our thinking, customs, and actions rooted ‘in this world.’”  Jesus offers “God’s thinking,” the thinking by which we save our lives by losing them and build a kingdom whose divine power is seen as human weakness.