Monday, April 14, 2014

Thursday in the Fifth Week of Lent

Psalm 133      Exodus 7:25 – 8:19      2 Corinthians 3:7-18      Mark 10:17-31

The gospel reading for today from Mark is a storehouse of hard sayings, perhaps particularly hard for prosperous Episcopalians. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Not being particularly prosperous myself may make it too easy for me to look past this saying, yet it speaks to all of us, as does this later statement: “But many that are first will be last, and the last first.” 

The context of the passage is the young man who asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life but was not willing to give up his possessions to help the poor. I suspect that Jesus saw through him immediately. (“Why do you call me good?”) Don’t ask a profound question unless you (we) are really serious about receiving an answer!

We should not pretend to resolve this passage in any comfortable way. Certainly it is asking where we have placed our hearts. And what are we willing to put at risk for the sake of the gospel? Money? Power? Prestige? Even family (see verses 29-30)? We are all imperfect, with feet of clay, but that does not excuse our falling short.

Various attempts have been made through the centuries to ignore or explain away the hard sayings of the New Testament. The simplicity and love for the poor shown by Pope Francis come across as a fresh renewal of the gospel. But it does not follow that Jesus would tell each of us to sell all we have and give everything to the poor. We see through a glass darkly. It is often hard to know what we are called to do.

This Lenten season should remind us to seek discernment, to strive to do God's will in ways that are challenging and self-giving. But if we can grow in acting out of gratitude to God and compassion for others, we may also remember that our imperfections are not the last word. That word is God’s reconciling love for his whole creation: the Word of Easter morning.

  John Zuck

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