Note: Back (again) after an 18-month hiatus. This time, will try to start this up again by posting my weekly Monday Mass sharings. Here’s the one from today…
Monday of the 20th Week in Ordinary time
Eze 24:15-24, Ps Deut 32, Mt 19:16-22
Let’s start with a somewhat cliched question – if you were in a burning building and had time to save only one thing, what would you save? This situation’s a little artificial but allows us an insight into what’s really important to us. Following that we should ask ourselves, what makes that one thing so important?
Two readings of today show the loss or possible loss of things important to two very different people. The situations are very different in both form and severity.
Ezekiel experienced the loss of the one dearest to him, the ‘delight of his eyes’, his wife. God not only forewarned him about that but added additional conditions. He was not allowed to mourn or display any signs of his loss. He was to continue his life as if nothing happened. Consider how horrible it would be to lose the one dearest to you and not be allowed to express your sorrow or to get any sort of closure. Difficult and almost seems cruel but Ezekiel obeyed because he knew who he was (a prophet) and what he was called to do.
He had to lose that which was dearest to him because it was a sign for disobedient Israel. People around him began asking why he wasn’t mourning and that allowed him to reveal the Lord’s message to Israel – that they would lose that which is most important to them, the temple of Jerusalem and they would lose it so quickly and so destructively that there would be no time to mourn. His loss was a sign for the impending punishment of Israel. What struck me was his perseverance and trust in the Lord, that he was able to go on despite all the personal calamities and discouragement that must have come with it.
The Gospel painted a picture of a man in a similar situation – though this one began with a dissatisfied young man. He was rich yet still yearned for for something more in his life. This might refer to most of us, rich or otherwise. There are many things that we are dissatisfied about and often bring these up to the Lord. The man in question is a good man, who carefully kept the law all his life and Jesus looked at him with loving eyes in Mark’s gospel. He knew that keeping the laws alone was not enough and he’s right.
Following the law is good and is praiseworthy but following and trying to have a relationship with God is not just about following something external – it has to go much deeper. God cannot be one of the many things that catch our attention – like Ezekial, we’re called to put God at the centre of our being and to do that, things that could distract us from that should be given up. Both Ezekial and the rich young man were challenged to radically follow the Lord but only the former was able to do so fully. There’s some comfort to us in realising that we might not be called to do either…yet.
The Lord through today’s gospel is not asking us to give up our wealth. But before we breathe a collective sigh of relief, we need to realise what we’re actually called to do. We’re called to discern – to see what’s truly important to us and to respond accordingly. If our wealth allows us to serve the Lord best by remaining in that state of life, then we should continue to be so. There are some of us who may be called to do exactly as the young man was asked to do, but not all. One thing is sure, we are all asked to respond by rejecting the rampant materialism that’s ingrained in our culture and to help those who are in need in any way that we can.
And the need to discern remains ever present and important to all. We don’t discern about our lives once and live in the same way forever. Discernment is a constant process of prayer and responding to the Lord’s call – Ezekiel had to do so and the rich young man was called to do so in the scene today. We continue to yearn for more like the rich young man but must be ready to follow even difficult commands or requests like those made of Ezekial. It’s tough but that’s what it means to be a disciple, a true follower of the Lord. We need to hear and follow, to ignore the counter-calls of the world and be the radical disciples that the Lord calls us to be.
And so the question remains: what’s REALLY important to us now in our life of following the Lord?