Lectio Divina: Mark 10:17-27
1) Opening prayer
guide the course of world events
and give Your Church the joy and peace
of serving You in freedom.
You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Mark 10:17-27
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 but 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 men it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God."
• The Gospel today narrates two events: (a) it tells the story of a rich man who asks how to obtain eternal life (Mk 10:17-22), and (b) Jesus warns on the danger of riches (Mk 10:23-27). The rich man does not accept the proposal of Jesus because he was very rich. A rich person believes he is protected by the security which is given to him by his riches. He has difficulty openning his hand and detaching himself from this security. He seizes the advantage of his goods, lives being concerned about defending his own interests. A poor person is not accustomed with this concern. But there may also be some poor people who have the mentality of the rich. Then, the desire for riches creates in them dependence and also makes them become slaves of consumerism. They have no time to dedicate themselves to the service of neighbor. Keeping these problems in mind, problems of persons and of countries, let us read and meditate on the text of the rich man.
• Mark 10:17-19: The observance of the commandments and eternal life. A person came up to Jesus and asked: “Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” The Gospel of Matthew tells us that it was the case of a young man (Mt 19:20-22). Jesus responds abruptly: “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but God alone!” Jesus takes away the attention from Himself to direct it toward God, because what is important is to do God’s will, to reveal the Father’s plan. Then Jesus affirms: “You know the commandments: You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false witness. You shall not defraud. Honor your father and mother”. It is important to always observe the response of Jesus. The young man had asked something concerning eternal life. He wanted to live together with God. But Jesus does not mention the first three commandments which define our relationship with God! He mentioned only those which indicate respect for the life lived together with others. According to Jesus, we can only be well with God if we know how to be well with our neighbor. It serves nothing to deceive ourselves. The door to reach God is our neighbor.
• Mark 10:20: What good is it to observe the commandments? The young man answered that he observed the commandments since his earliest days. What is strange is what follows. He wanted to know which was the way to eternal life. Now, the way of life was, and continues to be, to do God’s will expressed in the commandments. It means that he observed the commandments without knowing for what purpose. Otherwise, he would not have asked any questions. This is what can happen today to many Catholics: they do not know what it means to be Catholic. “I was born in a Catholic country; this is why I am Catholic!” It is mindless!
• Mark 10:21-22: To share the goods with the poor and to follow Jesus. Hearing the response of the young man, “Jesus looked at him and was full of love for him and said: You need to do one more thing: go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor and you will have a treasure in heaven, then come, follow Me!” The observance of the commandments is only the first step of a stairway that goes higher. Jesus asks more! The observance of the commandments prepares the person for the total gift of self on behalf of neighbor. Jesus asks for much, but he asks it with much love. The rich young man does not accept the proposal of Jesus and goes away not just because he was a man of great wealth, but because he valued that wealth above all others.
• Mark 10:23-27: The camel and the eye of the needle. After the young man left, Jesus commented on His decision: “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were astounded. Jesus repeats the same phrase and adds: “It is easier that a camel passes through the eye of a needle than for someone rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
The expression “enter the kingdom” not only indicates in the first place entrance into heaven after death, but also and above all, the entrance into the community around Jesus. The community is and should be a model of the Kingdom. The reference to the impossibility for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle comes from a popular proverb of the time used by the people to say that a thing was, humanly speaking, impossible and unfeasible. The disciples were astounded by hearing this and they ask themselves: “Then who can be saved?” This is a sign that they had not understood the response of Jesus to the young rich man: “Go, sell all you all you own and give the money to the poor and then come follow me”. The young man had observed the commandments since his earliest days, but without understanding the reason for this observance. Something similar was happening to the disciples. They had already abandoned all their goods as Jesus had asked the young rich man, but without understanding the reason, the why of this abandonment. If they had understood, they would not have been astounded at the demands of Jesus. When riches, or the desire for riches, occupies the heart and the gaze, the person cannot perceive the sense of the Gospel. Only God can help! Jesus looks at the disciples and says: “Impossible for man but not for God. For God everything is possible.”
4) Personal questions
• Can someone who lives constantly concerned about her wealth, or who lives always wanting to buy all the things the television advertises, free herself from everything to follow Jesus and live in peace in a Christian community? Is it possible? How do you do it and what are the steps?
• Do you know somebody who has succeeded in abandoning everything for the sake of the Kingdom? What does it mean for us today: “Go, sell all you own, and give the money to the poor”? How can we understand and practice this?
• Does this instruct communities as well, or just individuals? How would a community “abandon everything” and still carry on its mission?
5) Concluding Prayer
I give thanks to Yahweh with all my heart,
in the meeting-place of honest people, in the assembly.
Great are the deeds of Yahweh,
to be pondered by all who delight in them. (Ps 111:1-2)