October 10, 2021
Sister Ana Cloughly, OSB reflects on the scripture readings:
First Reading: Wisdom 7:7-11
Second Reading: Hebrews 4:12-13
Gospel: Mark 10:17-30
Today we focus on what it means to be rich. We will see that to be rich takes on counter intuitive meaning as Jesus instructs his followers at meeting a rich young man. The young man runs up to Jesus and asks what he must do to obtain eternal life. Perhaps the most moving part of this encounter is, as we are told, “Jesus loved him.” There is much speculation about the outcome. Jesus tells the young man to sell all that he has, give it to the poor and then to become his follower. What did the young men do? Did he sell all? What is the sadness the young man feels? Is it caused by having to give up all that he had? Or was this sadness because he had so many possessions, it would take a long time to sell it all and then return to follow Jesus? We don’t know what he did.
Jesus astounds his listeners by telling them that the rich find it much harder to enter the kingdom of heaven. In Jesus’s time, wealth was a sign of God’s favor. Sinful people suffered sickness and poverty. Truly, who would choose poverty?
Jesus continues to explain to his listeners that those who gives up possessions, land, houses, family members, children and all forms of wealth will receive much more in the next age. Sounds good right? Yes, until we read the very last line of Jesus’s list of what we will receive. He says that we will receive persecutions in the next age as well. What could he mean by this?
In Jesus’s day and the years that followed his resurrection, many people did sell all, then joined together to live a common life of prayer and service. There were those who sold all and lived a solitary life of prayer and penance too. Either way, these people suffered persecution.
In our time, when someone sells all to follow Jesus, we primarily think the person will become a religious sister, nun, brother or priest. Perhaps join a mission group.
As I have prayed with today’s readings, my mind has turned to the life I have chosen, Benedictine Monastic life. Becoming a religious sister, I have given up a lot. Although there are many things I have chosen to give up, like property houses and expensive possessions, there are so many more things that I have gained.
If I have ever felt persecuted, the persecutions are not from the outside. We live in a relatively safe place. The persecutions I feel come from within. Separation from my family life is painful. Sometimes I struggle with anger, resentment, being misunderstood and even occasional deep sadness. If I look to the root causes, I find I am the persecutor. The voices in my mind that say I’ll never be good enough. I’ll never become holy,
Today’s first reading from the Book of Wisdom gives me a new perspective. Wisdom comes from God. The author of this book says that he/she pleaded for wisdom, and she came. Wisdom is not the same as knowledge or even intelligence. She offers to those who seek her something more precious than riches, or even health. Wisdom lives in us like a memory that surfaces in both our joy and our need. Wisdom is a gift of love.
Jessica Powell puts it this way in The Gift of Love:
“My thoughts of you are as fair as precious stones out of the memory’s deep mysterious mines. I cut and polish, hold the gems to light— color of sea water, color of wines coaxed from the earth’s sweetest fruits. I drop them down into my heart, into the lifted hands of love whose lone concern is your renown.”
Giving up all, pleading for wisdom, the gift of love that drops down into my heart opens a new realization that everything I have given up is still with me. The difference is, I hold it lightly rather than clinging tightly. The first word in the Rule of St. Benedict is listen. He calls all who seek to follow Christ to listen with the ear of our heart. It is there that wisdom dwells. Can you hear her?