•Wisdom 7:7-11 • Hebrews 4:12-13 • Mark 10:17-30•
Weekly Scripture Readings:28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
I think it will be helpful to clarify the meaning of the word “ego” at the very beginning of this homily. The word is taken directly from Latin and means “I myself.” In psychology the word also means “an inflated sense of self-worth.” I use the word in reference to the “false self” — that “inflated sense of self-importance” that most of us contend with day after day.
Now let’s consider this text from Mark’s gospel. The implications of this very countercultural story may sound overwhelming. Please hold your emotions in check for a moment as I try to draw forth the good news proclaimed in this text. The interchange is brief. “A man ran up to Jesus.” “Good teacher, he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
What does “eternal life” mean? Most of us immediately think the man is asking, “what must I do to get to heaven?” That is not what he asking. He was a first century Jew and neither he nor his peers thought in terms of life after death. For them the term “eternal life” refers to life here and now. He is asking, “what must I do to have a fully human life here and now.”
“Jesus looked at him and loved him.” That is the basic good news. Jesus loved him. His answer to the man is simple. “Let go of all that hinders your ability to love others.” The man’s “ego,” his “false self” is still very strong. Instead of being focused on God’s call, he remains focused on himself, his efforts, his obedience, his accomplishments. So “he went away sad.”
In the texts from Mark’s gospel that we are pondering these weeks, the good news is what happens to all who follow Jesus. “Do this and then come follow me!” You will have a fully human life here and now if you “let go of all that hinders your ability to love others.” Love without condition and you will have eternal life — a fully human life here and now.
That creates a struggle for us as it did for the young man. Please listen now and draw your own conclusions. Since December 2012 there have been 142 shootings on school campuses. In that period 150,000 of our fellow citizens have been shot dead. Only 3,000 were killed on 9/11. Now we hear more and more news reports of innocent people, children and adults, being shot and killed. Even police are shot and killed simply because they wear a uniform.
The NRA is one of the largest lobbying groups in our nation. The NRA argument that “guns don’t kill, people do” may be true. It is equally true that people use guns to kill.
“A man ran up to Jesus.” “Good teacher, he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
This was a good man but he was stuck. Jesus tells him, “let go of whatever holds you back from loving without condition.” Perhaps you are a member of the NRA. Perhaps you own pistols, shotguns, rifles for hunting or may even automatic weapons. Or perhaps you are among those lobbying for strict gun controls.
For all of us, letting go is an essential step in gospel spirituality. The gospel invites us to let go of all and everything that prevents me from being a free person, a person who loves without condition. “Let go, and come follow me.” “Follow me.” To imitate Christ! means to love without condition. The young man could not. Those who do become and have a fully human life, here and now!