To Give Is To Get
Tuesday: Eighth week of the Year May 24, 2016
Mark 10:28-31. Year I: Sirach 35:1-12; Psalm 50:5-23; Year II: 1Peter 1:10-16; Psalm 98:1-4.
After the young man “went away sad” because he thought Jesus asked too much, Peter was quick to capitalize on the situation. He said to Jesus, “Look, we have put aside everything to follow you.” Peter was not hesitant about claiming his due!
Jesus met Peter where he was. He repeated the promise he had made to the young man: “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left [home or family or possessions] for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, who will not receive… eternal life.” But he added to it. He promised “a hundred times as much now, in this age,… and in the age to come eternal life.” He also slipped in a clause Peter may have preferred not to notice: “and persecution besides.”
Peter and the disciples thought they had it made. And they did. But not in the way they thought. They should have known by now that Jesus didn’t exactly call things by the same names they did.
When he told the young man to “sell all,” and generalized this to say “none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions” he was talking about giving up interior attachment, not legal ownership. When he says that to be his disciples we must “hate father and mother, wife and children… yes, and even life itself” (Luke 14:26-33), he is really just re-phrasing the First Commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” (Mark 12:30). In our hearts God must reign without competition.
In the same way, when he speaks of receiving “houses, family and fields” multiplied a hundred times over “in this life” to replace what we have left for him, we should know better than to take this literally! Jesus means we will receive —yes, in this life — a hundred times more satisfaction from all we renounce or retain, if in our hearts we have “left all” for him in order to have and hold everything only to use it in his service. This holds true even if we are persecuted for our stance. United to Jesus, we can’t lose for winning!
A sceptic, questioning a nun about her way of life, said: “It seems to me you have given up all the pleasures of life.” Instead of arguing with his exaggeration, she answered: “Perhaps I have. But I haven’t given up any of its joys.”
But Jesus doesn’t let Peter’s self-seeking pass. The disciples are still intent on honor and prestige. They are arguing about who will be “first” in the Kingdom. So Jesus keeps telling them the way to be first is to be last. They should bear witness to new values. In his Church it is dishonor to seek honors, degradation to be given prestige. Those who desire and accept these are marked as “last” in the kingdom of God. When Jesus comes to reign and fits titles to truth, “the first will be last, and the last first.”
Initiative: Give God’s life: Rethink your honors. Refuse all you can. They infect.