Sunday, February 27, 2011

Then Who Can Be Saved?

February 28, 2011
Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

But to the penitent God provides a way back, he encourages those who are losing hope! Return to the LORD and give up sin, pray to him and make your offenses few. Sirach 17:19-20

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through (the) eye of (a) needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, "Then who can be saved?" Mark 10:23-26

Happy the sinner whose fault is removed, whose sin is forgiven. Happy those to whom the LORD imputes no guilt, in whose spirit is no deceit. As long as I kept silent, my bones wasted away; I groaned all the day. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength withered as in dry summer heat. Then I declared my sin to you; my guilt I did not hide. I said, "I confess my faults to the LORD," and you took away the guilt of my sin. Thus should all your faithful pray in time of distress. Though flood waters threaten, they will never reach them. You are my shelter; from distress you keep me; with safety you ring me round. Psalm 32:1-7

Sometimes, we learn the end of the story before we learn the beginning. Storytellers would call this technique “flashback.” In the case of our readings today, the key question is asked in the Gospel but the answer precedes the question in the first reading.

Who can be saved? The rich man wants to follow Jesus but calculates that the cost of discipleship is too high when Jesus says he must give away all his possessions. That leaves the audience with their mouths gaping open. Incredulous. What would happen if Father Barkett or Father Stefan said the same thing from the pulpit at St. Mary of Sorrows? Right here in the middle of deep suburbia, would there be a mass exodus out the doors? Or would we call that properly a Mass Exodus?

In a parish where most people make more money in a week than poor people around the world make in a lifetime, how would we react to such news? Impossible!

We have followed the commandments. We give to the Bishops Lenten Appeal (well at least 30 percent of us do). We support the overseas missions. We give to the Samaritan Fund. We even buy donuts after Mass and pancakes from the Knights of Columbus. What more is asked?

Penitence. As the Book of Sirach explains, “To the penitent God provides a way back.” But what does THAT mean? It means that we must put on a prodigal nature and change the direction in which we are looking for happiness. Lent may not start for two more weeks but why not start now?

We must stop pursuing a better job, a bigger house, a faster car. Instead, we must seek FIRST the kingdom of God. We must seek forgiveness for stepping along the wrong path and, in true obedience, turn to the path laid before us by the Lord. Then, nothing will be impossible. Even we might be saved.