Ws 7:7-11, Heb 4:12-13, Mk 10:17-30
Prepared by Mike Izen
From an outsider's point of view, Joe appeared to be a pretty good father. He excelled in business and so he was a good provider. We saw him at Church every Sunday, so it certainly appeared that he was giving a good faithful witness to his children. Truth be told, Joe was good at a lot things. But he was missing one thing… one very important thing. Joe had a problem with anger, which often led to a problem with abuse… physical abuse, which was usually directed at his wife Marge. This continued to be a problem for Joe until one night when his abuse sent Marge to the hospital. Marge recovered, but the marriage never did. Joe's abusive behavior ended up costing him his wife and his children. Any good traits Joe might have had simply paled in comparison to that one terrible trait of abuse.
It's really not that unusual to have one critical area keep a person from living a truly good life. It's often just one thing that keeps us from God. For the Rich Young Man in today's Gospel that one thing was his possessions. He comes to Jesus and it's pretty clear that he has led a fairly decent life. First, he recognizes Jesus as someone of greatness and realizes that Jesus should be able to tell him what must be done to inherit eternal life. Secondly, we hear that he has observed all the commandments. Jesus acknowledges all this, but then he challenges him… "There is one more thing you must do…. Go sell what you have and give it to the poor." And we hear that the man went away sad. He thought he had been leading a good life, but he had been ignoring that one thing which was the most difficult for him, and which had also been the most critical.
For the Rich Young Man that one more thing was to be willing to part with his many possessions. This is what was keeping him from God. For us, that one more thing might be something similar, or it might be something totally different. But the commonality is evident. Most of us do a pretty good job of living an adequate life, but many of us also have that one more thing that is keeping us from God. And it's usually something very complicated. Maybe it is a matter of reconciling a relationship with a relative where there has been a fallout. Maybe we need to admit an addiction and take it to God. Or maybe we are in a relationship like Joe and Marge and need to admit a problem we have with abuse right in our own home.
For some of us it might be a matter of realizing that that one more thing we need to do is to seek help because we are the victim in an abusive relationship. If your initial response to hearing this in a homily is, "That's not a problem in our parish," please realize that nearly one fourth of all women will have been abused by their current or former partner at some time in their life. So if instead your response is, "It is a problem in my house," please know that you are not alone… the numbers are staggering. But that doesn't mean it is acceptable. The concept that all suffering is from God can sometimes paralyze those of us stuck in abusive relationships. If we read today's Gospel closely we realize that even the disciples didn't quite have this right. Once they hear that it will be difficult for the Rich Man to inherit eternal life they respond, "Then who can be saved?" Are they worried because they are rich too? No, of course not. But the popular theory was that the rich were in God's favor and the poor were not, so if a rich person's salvation is in jeopardy, then what hope do the poor have?
Well Jesus tells us that they do have hope. Throughout the Gospels Jesus is always preaching about the reversal of fortunes, where the poor and the persecuted are the ones who inherit the earth. Our Church reassures us that the dignity of each life is not a matter of just scraping by in a suffering state. No, we must have life and have it to the fullest. If you are stuck in an abusive relationship, but you think you are managing OK because you get to Church, you obey the commandments, and you try to live Jesus' message of love, please hear Jesus today… as he asks you to do…one more thing. You can come to me for help or to anyone on our staff. Does that sound impossible? Then call our anonymous helpline number listed in the bulletin. Does that still sound impossible? Then please pray and remember Jesus' last instruction in today's Gospel regarding why we should be able to have any hope to go and do that one more thing: "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God."
And oh I have one more thing before I end this homily. If you happen to be an abuser in a relationship then please know this. God's love is still there for you as well, you simply need to change your ways, turn towards God, and repent. Violence and abuse are never acceptable. We hear in the Letter to the Hebrews something that might sound kind of violent to us: "The Word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword." But is this an endorsement of violence? God doesn't cut to destroy, God's word cuts so as to read the heart. Everything is exposed by God's two-edged sword: our actions, our motives…our sins. And so this sword, this Word of God, will bring salvation for some, but for others it will bring judgment. So please remember God's mercy is available to all of us. You can come to me, or another staff member, or call our anonymous number. If your situation seems so mixed up that you can't imagine having the ability to change it, remember, "All things are possible for God."