28th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year B

Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hofmann

This morning’s second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews speaks of the Word of God; as “living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” The first thing that comes to our minds when we hear the phrase “the Word of God” is probably the Bible, but for the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, the Word of God is first and foremost a person. The author writes of the Word of God, “No creature is concealed from Him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must render an account.”

Jesus Christ is the Word of God, eternally spoken by the Father. Yet our Church’s Scriptures are also God’s inspired Word. Scripture is no dead letter, it is living and effective among us today. It can penetrate the soul, giving discernment to the thoughts and reflections of its readers’ hearts. The Word of God comes down to us from heaven. In Jesus’ incarnation, the Divine Word unites with humanity. Similarly, in the inspiration of Scripture, divinity unites with human words. In the Christian life, we neglect the Word of God to our detriment. We need Christ and His Scriptures. Merely following our consciences will not give us the fullness of life.

Living a moral life is good, but it is not the fullness of life that God wills for us and wants to lead us to through His Word. The man who came to Jesus in the Gospel realized this. He had listened to his conscience and observed the commandments of God’s from His youth, like a lot of cradle Catholics, but notice that the man didn’t walk up to Jesus, he ran to Him and knelt before Him, because he profoundly recognized that he did not yet have the fullness of life. The man goes to Jesus because he senses that this teacher holds the answer he’s searching for, and indeed Jesus does.

Jesus, looks at him, loves him and says to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

What this man lacks, in his all-too-comfortable life, is a total commitment to God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus offers him the opportunity and the adventure of a lifetime, “Come, follow me,” but the man goes away sad, because he has many possessions which possess him.

This morning, I would like to teach you a way to personally encounter the Word of God yourself; a way to run up to Jesus, through praying with the Scriptures.

First, take your Bible, and go to someplace where you can pray. Perhaps a quiet room in your house or here at Church; someplace where you will be free from distractions. Then ask the Lord for His grace and wisdom, and the spirit of wisdom, which is greater than riches, will be freely given to you.

Open your Bible to the Gospels, and chose a single scene. Read the passage once or twice, to become familiar with it, and then read it once again, slowly.

Now use your imagination to enter that scene. See Jesus and the other characters there. You can be a bystander observing the scene, or put yourself in the place of one of the characters. What do you feel in their place? What would you say and what would you do in that situation? Then look to Jesus, to hear what He says and see what He does.

This can be a very fruitful way to personally relate with the Word of God, and for Jesus to relate with you through His Scriptures in your prayers.

Over the past few days, in preparation for this homily, I have prayed in this way with today’s Gospel. Just to provide one example of how this sort of thing goes, I’d like to share my meditations with you.

The Gospel begins by saying that the man ran up “as Jesus was setting out on a journey,” so I imagined myself standing there as one of the carrying a heavy sack on my back. When the man came up and knelt before Jesus the feeling that I felt was annoyance, that this guy was holding us up when we had a long journey ahead of us.  But then I remembered what I was witnessing before me an event worthy of the Gospels. This was a lesson for my life and my ministry, that I should not let anxious feelings cause me to neglect or rush past the things that are really important.

When I saw the man walk away sad, I ran after him and pleaded with Him to come back, not to live His life plagued with by question of what his life would be like if he had tried, even just once, a total commitment to Christ. But the rich man was afraid. He didn’t think he had it in Him to take that step. This motivated me to go back to Jesus and ask Him for the grace so that we would all be willing to follow Him outside our comfort zones.

I also I imagined myself in the position of the rich man, kneeling before Christ and asking what more I lacked. I expected Him to say, “Sell all that you have and follow me,” but Jesus put His hand on my shoulder, smiling, and expressed His pride at how far I had come in the areas of trust and generosity. It was a great personal consolation.

What consolations and what wisdom does the Word of God have waiting for you through this form of prayer? There’s only one way to find out.

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