28th Sunday Ordinary Time
A Homily - B Cycle - 2002-2003

First Reading - Wisdom 7:7-11
Psalm - 90:12-13, 14,15, 16-17
Second Reading - Hebrews 4:12-13
Gospel - Mark 10:17-30 or 10:17-27

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Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"  Jesus answered him, "Why do you call me good?  No one is good by God alone.  You know the commandments; You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother."  He replied and said to him, "Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth."  Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, "You are lacking in one thing.  Go sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."  At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

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?"  Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.  All things are possible for God."  Peter began to say to him, "We have given up everything and followed you."  Jesus said "Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father of children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, With persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.

Just by way of introduction, my name is Fr. Magat and I am your new Parochial Vicar.  I am very pleased to be assigned with Fr. VanderWoude.  I knew Father even before I was a seminarian and to have the chance to work with him is a great growth opportunity for me.  You may have noticed in the bulletin that I am listed as Fr. Geronimo Magat.  That's my given name - it's no joke.  However, I am not Apache Indian.  "Geronimo" is Spanish for "Jerome."  As you can guess, I'll be doing a little work with the Hispanic community here as well.

Let's talk about Jesus.  Today, we are presented with one of the most famous scenes in any of the four Gospels-the story of the rich young man.  The rich young man asks, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"  It's a question that we should always be asking ourselves for to answer it fully requires a lifetime.  In a way, we feel sorry for the rich young man.  Here is an upright Jewish man who was obviously interested in following Jesus.  From the Gospel, we know that he was morally upright, for he kept the commandments from his youth.  Yet when Jesus asks him to give up his possessions, the rich young man's face falls with sadness, for he had many possessions, implying that he could not give them up.  When his disciples press our Lord on this statement, He does not back down.  In fact, he repeats what he says and adds that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom.  This needle's eye that our Lord is referring to is not a sewing needle.  It would be impossible for a camel to pass through it.  The needle's eye that our Lord is referring to were narrow and low clearance openings in the city walls that allowed a camel, but not a horse to pass through, so long as the camel stooped down and crawled through with some assistance.  These openings were designed to keep enemy horses out but allow camels into the city.

What our Lord is suggesting here is that we need assistance, which we call grace to enter into the kingdom of heaven.  When Jesus says that for men it is impossible but that for God, all things are possible. He is telling us that we need God's grace to enter into eternal life.  We do not earn eternal life in the strict sense.  We show our desire for eternal life by our good works, prayers, mortifications and lives of faith, but ultimately, salvation is a gift from God for whom could truly EARN everlasting life?

In one sense, we all face the challenge of the rich young man.  Each of us desires heaven, but we're not so ready to do what it takes to put ourselves in a position to get there.  What Jesus challenges the rich young man to applies to us as well.  Jesus is inviting the rich young man to strip away all that hinders him from true discipleship.  For the rich young man, it was his possessions.  For us, it is other things.  Perhaps it is our pride of life or a grudge that we've been holding.  Perhaps it's gossip or sinful habits of addictions.  Perhaps its our refusal to turn away from impure and lustful media outlets and so-called "recreation."  Whatever it is, no one of us wants to end up like the rich young man who goes away sad just because our attachments to things or sins or habits are too much for us to give up.

In another sense, the challenge that our Lord offers to the rich young man had implications for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.  This weekend, the Church turns her attention to Vocations Awareness.  While there are three vocations: married life, single life and the priesthood and religious life, we focus our attention today on the vocation to the priesthood
and religious life.  On this weekend, we seek to identify and pray for young men who may be called to the priesthood and young men and women who may be called to the religious life.  We must pray for a generous response on the part of those who are being called to this amazing life - that each of them will be open to the possibility of following the Lord in this very unique way.  We must also pray that we will be supportive of those who express a desire to answer a vocation to the priesthood and religious life by our encouragement, prayers and mortifications for them.  When I was in seminary, I was always both saddened and amazed that the individuals who were usually most opposed to the vocations of my classmates were not a disgruntled ex-girlfriend who was losing her boyfriend or a greedy manager who was losing a good employee.  Rather, it was usually the parents and siblings of my classmates who were most opposed to their vocation.  They would often say, "Oh, what a waste!"  What a waste?  What they were really saying is that they were a waste because they didn't see themselves as worthy of having a young man lay down his life in order to serve them as their priest.  For our part, we must be better than that.  We ought to esteem celibacy for the sake of the kingdom as a superior state of life, as defined by the Council of Trent and reaffirmed at Vatican II.  That's not to say that those who live this life are themselves superior, but it is to say that the state of life, objectively speaking, is a superior state of life because its object and end is God Himself, in a relationship of more perfect communion with Him, unfettered by the concerns of this world.  And yet, the vocation to consecrated celibacy for the sake of the kingdom means that the person undertaking this vocation has an even greater obligation to be the last and the servant of all.

For those of you who are open to this call, you may ask, "What's in it for me?"  Our Lord promises us that those who have given up house of brothers or sisters or mothers or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel will receive a hundred times more now in this present age and eternal life in the age to come.  Not bad.  I invite those of you who have children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews to encourage your children to consider this vocation and to heed the words of our Holy Father to "Open wide the Doors to Christ - to put out into the deep" for the harvest is plenty.

Finally, we entrust ourselves and this intention of an increase in generosity to the vocation of the priesthood and religious life to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the first and most perfect disciple of the Lord Jesus.  Her "yes" at the Annunciation meant a surrender of her humanity so that divinity could be brought forth in the world.  In this way, she is the perfect model for all priests and religious.  May we imitate her spirit of sacrifice, always ready to give up what we must in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

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