Reflection Readings: Philippians 3:7-11; Matthew 19:21-30


Commentaries on the Readings: Philippians 3:7-11; Matthew 19:21-30

The Gospel reading from Matthew comes at the end of the story of the rich man who approached Jesus and asked what he should do to gain eternal life.  At first, Jesus suggested he keep the commandments and cites a number of them.  Significantly, the commandments mentioned by Jesus all concern relations with other people; the commandments concerning relations with God are not mentioned.  When the man says he has kept all these commandments since he was young, Jesus tells him there is just one thing missing and Jesus tells him to offload his wealth and share it with the materially poor.  After that, he is invited to become a follower of Jesus.  On hearing this, the man walked away sad-faced, because he was very wealthy.  His bluff had been called

It is then that Jesus turns to his disciples and tells them how difficult it is for a person who is rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven.  We must not interpret this as Jesus saying that it is difficult for a rich person to go to heaven after death.  The ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ should really be translated the ‘Kingdom of God’ or better still the Reign, or the Kingship of God (basileia tou Theou, basileia tou Qeou).  And a person belongs to the Reign of God when they are living their lives totally in accord with God’s will – whether they are Christian or not. 

It is clearly part of God’s will that we love our brothers and sisters as Jesus has loved us.  To be rich in the Gospel means having a great deal of wealth while there are people around who do not have enough to live on.  It cannot be God’s will that such a situation be tolerated, as the man in the story seems to be doing.  Jesus tells his disciples that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than that a rich person in this sense can be under the Reign of God.  The disciples are quite shocked by Jesus’ words.  In their world, wealth was a sign of God’s blessing and poverty could be understood as punishment for sin.  Jesus rejects this out of hand.

It is then in today’s reading that Peter pipes up: “We have given up everything and followed you.  What will there be for us?”  Jesus replies that there will be a special future for them.  In this life, all who have given up houses, family or property as their commitment to the Way of Jesus will receive a hundred times more – and eternal life. 

The point of the story is not that the rich man was being told simply to give away all his wealth.  What he was being asked to do was to share it.  And that is what Jesus is telling Peter.  When every member of the community shares what they have with others, all are beneficiaries.  When everyone gives, everyone gets. 

This, of course, is precisely the road that Kevin followed.  He is believed to have come from a well-off family but he chose the life of a hermit, a person totally at the disposal of others.  In time, he became the abbot of a monastery, a place where every member contributes to the welfare of all.  It is a message that is direly needed in a world with a very uneven distribution of wealth and resources. 

 In the First Reading, we see Paul expressing the same sentiments, based on his own experience and choices.  “I consider everything as loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”  To “know Christ” is not just to know his Person but to be fully identified with the Way, the Vision of Christ, to think as he does.  For Paul, nothing could be more precious or worth having.  And to “gain Christ” is to become totally filled with Jesus’ way of seeing and doing things.  Again, we see that this exactly describes the life of Kevin.

 

 

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