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Sunday Scriptures - 28th Sunday In Ordinary Time, Year B

By Father Donald Dilger
Father Donald Dilger


Wisdom 7:7-11; Psalm 90:12-13, 14-15, 16-17; Hebrews 4:12-13; MARK 10:17-30 

The first reading is from the Book of Wisdom. For those who hold on to these columns on the Sunday readings, some detail about the origins and purpose of the Book of Wisdom was given on the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, but is partly repeated here. Even though the book is attributed to King Solomon, 961-922 B.C., it was actually composed by a learned Jew in Alexandria, Egypt between 100-50 B.C.  Attributing a document or book to some famous figure of the past was a common literary device in both Old and New Testament and other writings.  Thus we can understand why, in today’s first reading, King Solomon himself is described as speaking about wisdom. Why is Solomon credited with possessing so much wisdom? The answer is in 1 Kings 3:5-12. The Lord said to Solomon in a dream, “Whatever you ask, I shall give you.” Solomon asked for an understanding mind to govern God’s people wisely. This pleased the Lord so well that he granted not only superior wisdom to the king, but also wealth and honor.

 It is unfortunate that the Book of Wisdom never define wisdom exactly. That had already been accomplished by Jesus ben Sirach in his textbook used in academy for young men about 200 B.C. That definition is found in Sirach 24:23 as “nothing other than the book of the covenant of the Most High God, the Torah (Law) that Moses commanded us.” The author of the Book of Wisdom may have known of Sirach’s definition, but in his mind wisdom is practical knowledge useful for a well-lived life. As the author later says of wisdom in chapter seven, “…true know-ledge of all that exists, the structure of things, alternation of the seasons, mental processes, varie-ties of plants and the medical properties of roots, etc.” Sounds like the mind of a scientist. Today’s first reading praises wisdom. She is greater than scepters, thrones, and all wealth. Compared with her, gold is only a pinch of sand. Silver ranks as mud. In her company one receives all good things. This reading was selected because the gospel is a catechesis on Christians and wealth plus praise of those who value God and eternal life above all riches. 

The Responsorial Psalm (90) continues the theme of wisdom, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.” The singers of the psalm recall trials and sufferings endured. Therefore they pray to God that the days of their happiness at least be equal to the days of their sufferings. The time of composition of the psalm is obviously a time of prosperity and the joy that results from prosperity. The people’s response expresses joy, “Fill us with your love, Lord, and we will sing for joy.” The Lord’s love will be expressed by continued prosperity. They sing twice, “Prosper the work of our hands for us! Prosper the work of our hands.” 

The second reading is from the Letter to the Hebrews. In the context, the author pleads with the recipients of the letter to persevere in Christianity, which he calls “a place of rest,” a phrase he adopted from Psalm 95:11. In that Psalm “the place of rest” is the Holy Land. The point is that those who were afraid to fight and subdue the natives of Canaan were punished by never entering this “place of rest.” In the Letter to the Hebrews “the place of rest” is Christianity. By reinter-pretting Psalm 95:11 in this way, he threatens them with rejection, because the Psalm is the word of God.  This brings us to today’s second reading in which the author points out that the word of God which judged the Israelites would also judge them if they rejected “the place of rest,” that is, Christianity. He warns that the judging word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword and is able to know the most secret thoughts. Meaning: “Don’t even think about leaving!”

In the gospel, a man runs up to Jesus, kneels in front of him, and asks, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus seems slighted by this overenthusiastic approach, and gives a testy answer, “No one is good but God alone.” What is Mark doing here? Was Jesus really irritated? Quite possible, since Mark, more than the other gospels, exhibits Jesus’ human emotions. On the other hand, this may be Mark’s way of referring his readers and hearers to the opening sentence of his gospel, where he identifies Jesus as Son of God, therefore God. Jesus quotes to the man the commandments that deal not directly with God but with others as a way of inheriting eternal life. The man affirms that he has “from my youth” obeyed those command-ments. Once again Mark displays Jesus’ human emotions, “Jesus looked at the man and loved him.” Jesus invites him to complete his almost perfect life by selling all he owned, “give to the poor, and you will have treasure (inheritance) in heaven.” The man looked sad because he had great wealth, and “he went away sad,” but not rejected by Jesus who loved him. 

Mark decided the story needs clarification, a catechesis on wealth and true wealth. Jesus makes an astounding statement, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” The apostles are amazed because some of the greatest characters in the Scriptures were people of great wealth – Job and Abraham. But Jesus insists the almost human impossibility of a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. The apostles want to know, “So who can be saved?” There is a solution, but it is not a human solution, “To God all things are possible.” Simon Peter, a practical and successful businessman, wants to clarify what can be expected of himself and others who have left all to follow Jesus.” What is the interest on their investment? Total replacement of all they gave up. Does he mean like Job, who lost everything, remained faithful, and got almost everything back double? Mark is speaking from the point of view of a persecuted minority, many of whom were rejected by their families and society when they became Christians. They will have security and a home in a new family – the Christian Community.