Sunday, October 10, 2021

Whose Journey?

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Readings: Wisdom 7:7-11; Psalm 89 (90):12-17; Hebrews 4:12-13; Mark 10:17-27

Picture: cc TimOve

My dear friends, what do you think about when you hear the words epidemic, pandemic, and endemic? For many, they mark stages in our ongoing journey of coping with Covid-19. And I confess that, when I hear them, I tend to focus first on myself. I want to know what I can and cannot do. Can I travel, or am I grounded? Can I eat out, or must I take home?… And yet, the word epi-demic literally means upon or above a people. Pan-demic means all people. And en-demic means in a people. So, at least linguistically, these words actually refer, first of all, to a journey made by the virus. The passage from an epidemic to a pandemic implies that a virus has become much more pervasive. Whereas progressing into endemicity marks its deeper penetration and greater persistence.

The image of a journey is also central to our prayers and readings today. At first glance, perhaps the more obvious journey is that of the seeker. In the first reading, King Solomon describes his own pursuit of Wisdom. He desires it so much, prays for it so fervently, prioritises it above all material wealth and health and beauty, that he finds what he seeks. He successfully reaches his destination.

Like Solomon, the rich man in the gospel is also a seeker. He too desires to inherit eternal life. The secret of which he begs Jesus, on bended knee, to reveal to him. Unfortunately, at this point in his journey, unlike Solomon, the rich man is unable to prioritise God. He cannot let go of his wealth. Despite having faithfully kept many of the Commandments, he has somehow allowed his possessions to possess him.

If our reflection stops here, then the lesson seems as clear as it is challenging. Don’t be like the rich man, who can’t complete his journey, because he’s too attached to his riches. Be like King Solomon. Let go, and let God! But how many of us can do this? Isn’t letting go precisely what we find so difficult, living as we do in this hyper-modern consumeristic society of ours, where many are possessed, not just by present wealth, but even by dreams of riches yet to come? Isn’t this why a single math exam can leave so many of our twelve-year-olds, and their parents, so badly shaken?

Thankfully, seekers are not the only ones on the move. God is as well! This is how the gospel begins: Jesus was setting out on a journey… More than a change in geographical location, we may think of this as part of the Word of God’s fruitfully circular passage, from Heaven to Earth, from Cross to Grave, and beyond. And even if Jesus’ loving gaze on the road fails to move the rich man to dispossess himself, perhaps the Lord’s broken Body, on the Cross and in the poor, can yet succeed. Perhaps this is how the Word of God becomes truly alive and active among us. Penetrating and moving us to do even the impossible. All the more if we make it a point to gaze upon Him intently and courageously, regularly and together. Here, at this Mass, and out there, in the world.

Sisters and brothers, much more than any virus, God’s Word also wishes to become pan-demic and en-demic. How shall we better follow and facilitate His passing among us today? 

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