Sunday, October 14, 2018

HOMILY 28th Sunday in Ord Time Cycle B October 13-14, 2018

HOMILY    28th Sunday in Ord Time Cycle B     October 13-14, 2018

          We just heard in the Gospel:  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?"
          Who was this guy?  All three of the Synoptic Gospels tell us this story, but none of them tell us the man’s name.  Matthew does tell us he was a young man.  Luke says he was a ruler.  Mark doesn’t tell us anything.  And none of them bother to give us the guy’s name.  So I have decided to name him.  I call him “Winsted”.  If we have any people in the congregation named ‘Winsted’, I apologize to you.
          I find Winsted’s question interesting.  “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  It is a good question.  Anyone else here interested in knowing what you must do to inherit eternal life?  
          Well, Jesus tells Winsted to keep the commandments.  Winsted is a high achiever and has kept them all since his youth.  Then St Mark tells us “Jesus, looking at him, loved him…”   Only Mark comments that Jesus loved him.  So Jesus, in what follows is not trying to brush him off or get rid of him, but Jesus is truly interested in this person and wants to challenge him to something more.
          Jesus tells him, “You are lacking one thing.  Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”  That was a wonderful opportunity and invitation that Jesus gave Winsted.  But of course, it was not to be.  The cost was too much.
          We get a hint of this in Winsted’s opening request.   What must I do to inherit eternal life?   Winsted wants to know what HE must do.  How can HE accomplish this?  How can HE earn eternal life?  Winsted wants to possess eternal life.  He wants to own it.  Eternal life will then be his by right, because he has earned it.
          But there is no way we can ever own, or deserve, eternal life.  It is purely a gift.  It is not a possession we can own, or lay claim to by right.  It is grace, and grace means free.  That is literally what the Latin word gratia translates as: “Free”. 
          As St. Paul tells us in the second chapter of the Letter to the Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.

We can never earn nor deserve eternal life.  It is a gift.  This is why Jesus tells the disciples, "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. 
All things are possible for God."
          Eternal life is not something we earn and posses by right, but is rather a wonderful gift, given to us by God in Jesus Christ. 
          By inviting the rich young man, Winsted, to sell his possessions and give to the poor Jesus was also inviting him to trust – not in his own wealth and his own ability and his own smarts – but to open himself radically to depend totally on God.  And in that openness to God, he would find eternal life, the fullness of life for which he longed.
          It was not only his possessions he needed to let go of, but more importantly, and more difficultly, to let go of his need to have a secure claim on eternal life as something he merited, something due to him, something he had a right to and a claim on.  He had to be open enough to accept it as gift, as grace.
         So also for us.  We all want life, full life, complete life, eternal life.  But no matter how hard we work, no matter how much we know, no matter how rich and important and famous we are, we can never earn life.  Life is a totally free gift. 
          Jesus, in this Gospel, is not talking about Winsted, but about you and me.  Jesus looks at you with love, and invites you to open yourself radically to depend solely on Him, and to accept as pure gift, eternal life. 

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