Sunday, October 11, 2009
(Scriptures for the 28th Sunday B)
Do you prefer the 5, the 7:30, 9:30 or 11:30 Mass - and why?
Do you prefer name brands or generics - and why?
Do you prefer Concord or West Concord - and why?
Do you prefer some friends to others - and why?
When you’re able,
do you prefer to volunteer or let others do the work - and why?
Dunkin' Donuts or Starbucks - and why?
Do you prefer time alone or time with others - and why?
Do you prefer to look good or feel good or be good - and why?
Our preferences reveal our priorities and our purposes
and sometimes they reveal more than we may want to disclose.
In the three readings we just heard there are 507 words
and I would suggest that the 18th and 19th words we heard
were the most important,
and they were Solomon's words, I preferred…
To power, authority, wealth, health and personal attractiveness,
I preferred wisdom and prudence…
How about us?
Do we prefer wealth or wisdom?
Do we prefer prudence or power?
Do we prefer the good life here and now until we die
-- or a life of peace forever with God?
That’s the rich man's question in today’s gospel.
“Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
And Jesus tells the young man that to gain life forever with God,
he will need to prefer the life he hopes to have
to the life and good things he already possesses;
that he will need to prefer the peace he longs for
to the peace his possessions bring him;
that he will need to prefer to let go rather than cling to all he has…
At this, the young man’s face falls and he walks away sad.
Why is he sad?
St. Mark tells us he went away sad because he had many possessions.
Now, we could debate whether Jesus really meant what he said
when he to told the young man to go sell all he had
and give to the poor.
But perhaps the man’s sadness has a more subtle source.
What Jesus is asking him to do is to examine his preferences,
inviting him to value, to prefer what is of heart and soul
to what is tangible.
Don’t forget that this man has kept all the commandments:
he’s got a clean slate!
But there’s something else, something more, says Jesus
who asks that we prefer the life of the heart
to the possession of goods;
that we prefer the treasure of wisdom
to the accumulation of wealth;
that we prefer the prize of prudence
to what is popular and passing.
If we only hear Jesus say,
“Go sell all you have and give to the poor”
we might walk away, too,
shrugging our shoulders saying,
“Sorry - that’s impossible, Lord:
I have a family to house and feed and clothe!”
But if we hear the more subtle question,
inviting us to examine our preferences,
we might be inclined to stay with Jesus and consider the invitation.
Most of us could not responsibly just sell everything we have
and give the money to the poor.
But each of us could take inventory of our belongings
and of our longing for things we don’t yet have but want
and ask the question of preference:
Does my preference, my desire to have more and more
distance me from some of the realities I truly desire in my life?
We know that when our circumstances are pressing and dire,
our preferences can easily become radically clear.
When someone we love is hurt, sick or dying, how easily we pray,
“Lord, let it rather be me!”
We prefer the welfare of the beloved to our own well-being.
What Jesus is asking here is that even in the good times
we examine our preferences and learn, day by day,
to prefer what is of truly lasting value to what is temporary
-- and to teach our children to prefer the same.
In both the first reading and the gospel
it’s clear that our possessions are often the greatest obstacle
to gaining wisdom and prudence.
And living in the towns we do,
having as many things as we have,
makes most of us a good audience, a target, for these scriptures.
(It might well be that the one among us who has the least today
may still have more than did the rich young man in the gospel.)
What will we do, then?
Will we listen to what the Lord says
and walk away sad, clinging to our possessions,
or will we hear in his words an invitation
to prefer, to value, to seek the things of heart and soul
we most deeply desire?
When we gather here on the Lord’s Day to pray,
the meal we share is very simple:
a morsel of the Bread of life, a sip from the Cup of salvation
a share in this altar’s sacrifice
in which Jesus preferred us to his own life.
May what we hear and pray, offer and receive here
teach us to prefer what is loving, giving, forgiving,
what is of the Spirit and what our hearts most deeply desire.
Posted by Austin Fleming at 4:36 PM