YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 28TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’” (Mark 10:23, 25)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
The gospel passage we hear today addresses the topic of generosity with the God-given resources at our disposal. We are invited to examine our wealth of time, talent and money, asking how best to use these gifts for the building up of God’s kingdom. And while the very human tendency is to suppose that such wealth is ours, something we’ve worked hard to achieve or attain, the truth is that whatever we have is given from above, a gift to be used in continuing God’s work on earth, the furtherance of the heavenly kingdom in our midst.
Today we hear the familiar story of a young man who wants with all his heart (most of it, anyway) to follow the path Jesus marks out for those who wish to inherit eternal life. Confessing to keeping all the commandments, the young man asks Jesus what more is necessary. And the response of Jesus, sharp as a sword, deflates in a flash the young man’s enthusiasm. “Jesus said to him, ‘Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me.’” (Mark 10:21) The young man turned away, saddened by the truth that he was shackled to earthly possessions, unable to free himself even for the promise of eternity. But sad as that young man was, I imagine Jesus was sadder as he turned to address his disciples. “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:23, 25)
In truth, that young man’s challenge is the challenge put to every Christian: Can we free ourselves from earthly treasure so to gain everlasting treasure? While it’s surely asking a lot, especially from those whose possessions are many, recently I collided with a group of young people who were able to focus more on heavenly treasure than on earthly even as they prepared to launch a sick old man toward eternity.
It was a real collision, 5 AM on a dark late August Friday morning. As sleepily I rounded a curve on the bridge-way adjoining the hospital parking garage to the main lobby, the entourage just about knocked me off my feet. Whizzing by, a white-sheeted figure in a wheeled recliner almost ran over one of my feet as the 4 giggling nurses pushing it apologized profusely for the near hit-and-run. They were in a rush, they yelled back to me as they moved on, but they’d explain later.
What was this, I wondered. Something of a prison break? A patient smuggled out of the hospital under cover of darkness? I remember, just before I was nearly run over, seeing the wide smile and bright eyes of the old man in the recliner, white- shrouded except for his uncovered elfish face. I recognized him—Jerry from the ICU.
Later that morning, Jerry now back in his assigned bed in the ICU, I asked his nurse about the early morning activity that almost left me hobbled. “Well,” she said, “You know Jerry’s been with us for quite a while now, and a few days ago he was told there’s nothing more medicine can do for him except to keep him comfortable. He cried and we did too. He’s such a sweet man.” She paused for a moment to dab her tearing eyes. “Later that day he said he just wanted to see one more sunrise before he died.”
She paused again to dab at her eyes, but smiled brightly as she then continued. “That’s what you saw this morning. You know that our staffing is strapped to the max, so four nurses volunteered to come in unpaid on their day off to bring Jerry up to the top level of the hospital parking garage so he could see the sunrise. He got his wish.”
What in the world was this, I’d wondered earlier that morning? Something akin to a prison break? No, it was 4 young nurses preparing to launch a sick old man toward eternity; 4 young nurses willing to swap paid hours for something money couldn’t buy: the wide smile and bright eyes of Jerry, their patient, their friend, soon to be their heavenly advocate. Could anyone be richer than they?