Sunday, October 14, 2018

What Do We Want?

October 14, 2018 –– 28th Sunday in  Ordinary Time
Wisdom 7:7–11 / Psalm 90 / Hebrews 4:12–13 / Mark 10:17–30
What Do We Want?

As a child I knew just enough of Arabian Nights to be aware of the story about Aladdin and a genie who would grant wishes. In my youthful naiveté I spent more than a few minutes fantasizing about that. In a more mature state of mind I think more now about the the way that our desires have a lot to say about who we really are.

The biblical story of Solomon brings the fantasy into real life. After inheriting the throne of his father David, 

the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”
Solomon answered, “….give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong….”
The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings (1 Kings 3:5, 9–13).

The first reading from the book of Wisdom gives the witness of this story from Solomon himself. It should raise with us not only the fantasy of a genie offering us wishes, but the reality that God invites each one of us to ask great things!

What are we asking of God? What is the desire of my heart?

We get another perspective on this question when we come to the Gospel reading. A young man comes to Jesus and seems to want eternal life. Jesus knows this man needs first to face the reality of what he really wants––where his heart is, so Jesus gives a huge challenge: give everything else away. In response, the young man turned away from Jesus, for he had many possessions.

We have this blunt truth: not only did the young man have many possessions, his possessions had him. So a key issue in today’s readings is this basic question: What is the desire of my heart?

We all need help with this. We cannot know our hearts by ourselves. We rationalize too easily for our own advantage. So the Hebrews reading tells us that God gives us his Word, which is able to discern reflections and thought of the heart. That is one reason the Scriptures are read and proclaimed when Christians gather. We need to be taken beyond our own limited perspectives. Only in going beyond ourselves will we inherit eternal life.

Jesus says a hard thing (and his disciples were “blown away”): How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God. It doesn’t matter what our relative wealth is. We can be inordinately attached to anything from the very impressive to the paltry. Jesus warns that things (the so-called riches of this world), and even our families (if given priority above God himself) can get in the way of God’s Life working in us.

If we can be honest, I think stories like this young man who turned away frighten us. Like the disciples, we hear what sounds impossible. Instead of being able to hear Jesus lovingly call to us what is most important, we instinctively recoil from significant things it seems we must give up. A classic example of this is St. Augustine’s request that God make him chaste…. but not yet! Though he could see the value of chastity, Augustine enjoyed his promiscuity and was afraid to ask the Lord to remove something he liked.

We can have a fear of inviting God to cleanse us of everything distracting so that we seek and love him above all else. So here’s what we do. Ask for the grace to pray, “Lord, if I’m not chaste, at least give me the desire to be chaste,” or “Lord, if I don’t share sufficiently with the poor, at least give me the desire to do be more generous.” If we make even a start to desire what God is offering, we will find that he knows how to give what he really wants us to have. Jesus says: All things are possible with God.

What is the desire of my heart? “Lord, help me to want what you want me to want.”

In another Gospel we find Jesus saying, Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all the other things will be added.

God knows what we need. Most of all we need him. What is the desire of my heart? “Lord, help me to want you more than anything else! That is more than a wish. It is a request the Lord will give to all who ask.

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