Have you ever felt like you are competent in one particular activity?
Maybe a sport, a task at your work, or getting the laundry folded regularly! You have ﬁnally mastered the particular task. And then, when you thought everything was (ﬁnally) going as you planned, something goes wrong. You get hurt, your work changes, a child gets sick, and everything is thrown oﬀ once again. Today, we will encounter this in a man who has been seeking to follow the commandments since he was a young boy. He thinks he has prepared himself well to enter into eternal life. But, when Jesus invites him to something deeper, something more, he is crushed, as he will have to “start over” in some ways. Are you willing to take the next step to growing closer to Jesus?
First Reading Reflection
This reading from the Book of Wisdom praises Wisdom through personiﬁed words, which are attributed to Solomon.
Wisdom was written in Greek about one hundred years before the coming of Christ, and it uses the figure of King Solomon as a literary device to extol the value of wisdom. Our reading today hearkens back to King Solomon’s dream immediately after his ascent to the throne of Israel in 1 Kings 3. In this dream, God asks Solomon for whatever he might desire. Rather than asking for worldly things that a king might desire, such as wealth or power, he asks for the wisdom to rule his people well. God is very pleased with Solomon’s request, and grants him his wish for wisdom, along with every worldly blessing besides. As the author of Wisdom says, “I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her,” but then affirms, “Yet all good things together came to me in her company, and countless riches at her hands.”
We might be reminded of the phrase, “Seek first His kingship over you, His way of holiness, and all these things will be given you besides” (Mt 6:33). As we said in our reflections on Wisdom from the 26th week of Ordinary Time, holiness and wisdom often go hand in hand. Genuine holiness will tend to lead to wisdom, and genuine wisdom to holiness. We receive wisdom as the gift of the Holy Spirit at our Confirmation. If we seek first His way of holiness, that wisdom will grow in us to bear its full fruit in every aspect of our lives.
Second Reading Reflection
Psalm 95 is cited often in this section of Hebrews. This Psalm refers to the incident at Meribah (Hebrew for “contention”) and Massah (meaning “proof”), in which Israel complained about a lack of water, and God instructed Moses to strike the rock with his staﬀ to pour forth water. Interestingly, St Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:4, “the Rock was Christ.” Immediately after the Israelites tested God in the desert with the incident of the rock and water, they went to ﬁght the Amalekites. We then read the following: “And Joshua [the Hebrew name Yeshua is the equivalent of Jesus in the Greek] mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of his sword” (Exodus 17:13). When Paul writes in the Book of Hebrews that “the word of God is living and eﬀective, sharper than any two-edged sword,” it is possible that he is calling Jesus “the Word,” and that Jesus is the new Joshua, who will purge the people through a spiritual sword.
In eﬀect, Paul is saying to these Hebrew Christians, “Don’t be disobedient like our fathers. Remember that not all of those who came out of Egypt entered into the Promised Land.”
Gospel Reading Reflection
The rich young man asks Jesus how to obtain the richest reward, eternal life. In this dialogue, Jesus will explain the Law in light of himself to reveal how one is to inherit eternal life.
The young man called Jesus the “good teacher.” Jesus responds by reminding the young man that there is only one who is good, God. At this time, the Jews believed that one must strictly adhere to the Old Covenant and its commandments in order to inherit eternal life. The Ten Commandments were believed to have been written on two tablets of stone when given to Moses. The commandments of the ﬁrst tablet related to the love of God, and the commandments of the second tablet related to the love of neighbor. When Jesus begins his answer to the rich young man by saying that God alone is good, Jesus is reminding him and us that love of God is the starting point for eternal life. Jesus is thereby making a subtle allusion to the ﬁrst tablet of commandments that states we should worship God alone.
Jesus then lists six commandments that the young man is to follow, which come from the second tablet and are related to love of neighbor. The young man responds that he has followed these laws. Jesus, looking at him “with love,” tells him that there is one thing he still lacks. Since the young man successfully loved his neighbor, what part of the law was left? The love of God, which is the ﬁrst tablet of the Ten Commandments.
Jesus asks the young man to give up all his possessions and follow Him. When Jesus asks the young man to give up all his possessions, he is asking him to pursue the path of perfection, which cannot be completed without the help of grace. In this way, Jesus is revealing himself as the fullness of the Law: he has come to give us the grace to pursue the path of perfection. Indeed, Jesus is not abolishing the law here. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The Law has not been abolished, but rather man is invited to rediscover it in the person of his Master who is its perfect fulﬁllment” (CCC 2053).
In the Old Covenant, the Jews were to follow the Ten Commandments and the ritual laws of puriﬁcation and sacriﬁce. In the New Covenant, Jesus fulﬁlls the law by giving himself, reducing the intricacies and demands of the law by calling us to fulﬁll the Ten Commandments in light of the Beatitudes. For it is in Christ alone that the Law of Love is realized.
Join the Discussion
We often say that we “love” things. There are diﬀerent ways of speaking about love. Jesus asks us to love him today above all else. He asks us to put aside our personal habits and way of life, and even perhaps our bodily life, for him. Are you willing to follow him and love him in this radical way?
Which commandment do you not follow closely enough?
How can you follow the commandments more closely so that you can inherit eternal life?
Watch the Opening the Word reflection video at FORMED.org/Community and post your responses to the questions.
Reflections reprinted here with permission from Augustine Institute.