Homily for Twenty-Eighth Sunday B
In our first reading this morning from the book of wisdom, the writer, probably Solomon, prayed and he was given understanding or wisdom. He treasured this understanding above every other thing, he believes strongly that if the understanding he was given is compared to gold, gold will be like a pinch of sand. This gift of understanding or wisdom is like a master key that opens every door, there is certainly nothing like it. The gift of wisdom and understanding sets free, and that is what Jesus said; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. (Jn. 8:32). That means, if you do not have the understanding, the knowledge of the truth, then, you become a slave, you are lost. It is written in Hosea 4:6 that my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Many Christians are confused and deceived today because they lack the understanding of the word of God. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews tells us in our second that the word of God is something alive and active: it cuts like any doubled-edged sword but more finely: it can slip through the place where the soul is divided from the spirit, or joints from the marrow; it can judge the secret emotions and thoughts. No created thing can hide from him; everything is uncovered and open to the eyes of the one to whom we must give account of ourselves. The bible is not just a book, it is the living word of God. If Christians understand the word of God, if Christians know what the word of God is saying about their situation, they won’t be deceived . If Christians understand the richness of the word of God, they would know how free and blest they are. The Psalmist says thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105). The word of God is the lamp that brightens the darkness of our world, it empowers us to rise against the spirit of deception and hold onto the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The word of God is God.
That understanding is what the rich young man in our gospel passage this morning prayed for; he ran up and knelt before Jesus and asked, Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?. He wanted to know, to understand what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus did not refer him to any priest or bishop, he did not prescribe a special kind of oil or special kind of candles neither was he given a bill to pay. Jesus simply referred him to the word of God, to the bible. He referred him to the book of Exodus 20, saying; you know the commandments: you must not kill, you must not commit adultery; you must not steal; you must not bring false witness; you must not defraud; honour your father and mother.
The young rich man listened and probably smiled as Jesus talked to him because he was sure he had kept these laws from childhood, he was becoming so sure of the kingdom of God because he kept the laws. But, to be very sure of this inheritance, he said to Jesus, Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days. In other words, he asked Jesus if to keep the law was all he needed; there is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me. Says the Lord.
At that point Jesus differentiate between the Jewish religion and his new teaching, he differentiates between Judaism and Christianity. Judaism is about obedience to the law while Christianity is about faith in God. St. James reminds us that Christianity is not just about faith but faith in action; he says show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith (James 2:18). That is the lesson Jesus taught the rich young man and wants us to learn today, that salvation does not come from the law or from material wealth, but faith in God.
The young man was asked to sell everything he own and give the money to the poor. That was certainly a radical call that demands a radical response, no wonder the rich man dropped his face and walked away.
To be a rich man or woman is not a bad thing, God blessed people and made them rich as recorded in the bible, and he is the same yesterday, today and forever. Riches are gifts from God, but if they are not handled with care they can make you walk away from God just as the rich man walked away from Jesus. If riches are not handled with care, they are capable of making one turn down God’s invitation to follow him. There are so many things that can make us walk away from God, and we can identify what those things are in your lives. Let us therefore ask ourselves today what those things are in our lives that wants to make us walk away from Jesus? What are those things that are tempting me to stop following Jesus? Whatever they may be, let us sell them off today and follow Jesus in truth and in faith.