Sunday, October 15, 2006

Easier for a camel...

Mark 10: 17-27

Today's Gospel is the one preachers like to avoid, especially if they have lots of wealthy parishioners. The rich will have a hard time getting into heaven. Ouch. Our celebrant this morning seemed relieved to be preaching to the choir on this one... after all, most monastic communities have the vow of poverty as a mainstay of their rule. Each woman I know who has entered here has given up a lot in the way of earthly possessions to arrive on the doorstep. Not all of it has been sold and/or given to the poor, though, as Jesus instructs the young man in today's parable.

I chose my recipients for the things I gave away. Some friends got clothes, others furniture, my daughters-in-law got jewelry. Some items went to the Goodwill or Salvation Army... but nothing was sold, or the proceeds given to the poor. Even in giving away, I was in control of who got what.

Nor is it all gone. I still have ten boxes stored in a friend's attic in Queens. They contain items I might need if I discern I'm not called to (or fit for) this life. Things like: a couple of towels, a blanket, some mugs, a pot to boil water. Lots of the boxes contain books... art reference books mostly, things I couldn't bring here but wasn't ready to part with if I had to start over. If and when I make this a life profession, those things must be disposed of, either assimilated into the community's store or given away. Most of what's left will be easy to unload (I think.) I was saving it for a rainy day, and once you make your life profession you figure you'll just cope with the rain.

The young man in today's story had many possessions. And Jesus essentially said: blow it all way... and then come follow me. So the man went away grieving. Grieving. What was he grieving? That he couldn't follow Jesus? That the test was too difficult and he wasn't ready (or able) to even attempt it? We don't know. All we know is he went away grieving. It doesn't say he went away mad. It doesn't say that.

Grief is something that washes over us in stages. Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross wrote a book on death and dying, outlining the five stages of grief. The final stage was acceptance. Maybe this young man reached that stage, did what Jesus required and came back later. We know that Jesus loved him... asked him to follow him. We don't know what went through Jesus' mind either as the young man walked off, except that he immediately told his disciples just how hard it is to find the kingdom of God if you're wealthy.

Our celebrant shed some light on why that is: for one, money gives us a sense of security, even when we know (intellectually) that it can't buy love or good health. We feel more in control of our options when there's money at hand to throw at a problem. But when you're poor, the only option you have is to trust in God. Nothing is secure, nothing is safe. Only God can help you then. Exactly. Who else would be in control in God's kingdom except God?

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