Sybil 2003

Gospel text

Mark 10: 17-30

17 And when he went on his way, somebody, having run to him and knelt down, asked him, "Good Master, what shall I do to inherit the life without end?" 18 But Jesus answered him, "Why do you say that I am good? Nobody is good, if only God. 19 You know the commandments: Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not commit fraud, treat your father and your mother with honor". 20 But he said to Jesus, "Master, all this I have kept from my youth. 21 Then Jesus, having fixed his eyes on him, began to love him and said to him: "One thing is missing, go, sell all these things that you possess, give them to the poor, and you will have a treasure in heaven, come here and follow me". 22 But the latter, become sad at these words, went away all unhappy. Because he owned a lot of goods. 23 And turning to look at his disciples, Jesus said to them, "How difficult it will be for those who possess property to enter into the domain of God". 24 And hearing these words, the disciples were astonished. But Jesus spoke again to say to them, "My children, how difficult it is to enter the domain of God. 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the domain of God". 26 These were extremely flabbergasted saying to each other: "But who can be saved?" 27 After staring at them, Jesus said, "For men it is impossible, but not for God. Because for God everything is possible". 28 Peter began to say to him, "Behold, we have left everything to follow you." 29 Jesus said, "Truly, I assure you, no one will have left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields because of me and because of the Gospel, 30 that he will not receive a hundred more times now as homes, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions, and for the coming period, a life without end."


The house is gone, blown by the storm. How will one come out of such an event?

Gospel commentary - Homily

Enter life as you die

Dan was in no hurry to get married. He could travel as he pleased. Passionate about cinema, he sometimes carried his photographic devices, sometimes his movie camera wherever he went. A good job in government gave him enough income to indulge in what interested him. Free as the air, he could decide when to leave. What a beautiful life! Thus he entered his thirties. Now a co-worker lady with a toddler, whom he had found so far very friendly, became free after a divorce. It started with some lunches together at lunchtime. Then, from time to time came the evening appointments. And pretty quickly, "they went out together". But Dan realized there was a problem. He was not so free anymore, and this bugged him. No question of giving up his passion. And besides, she had a child to take care of. The tension mounted when it came time for him to go for a month in India with a friend, a project planned for a long time. Yes, he will go in India, yes, he will keep his independence. Basically, marriage is probably not for guys like him. It was there, deep in the Indies, that he realized that the one he had begun to love was missing. He really loved her. And even her child was missing. But this beautiful life to travel and film, what would become of it? He could not let go of all that! Even if the feeling of its implications was vague, his decision was made: he would choose to love, he would choose to watch over two loved ones. Confusedly, he knew he had to die on a number of things, but the life that would come out of it was worth more than anything in the world.

Dan's story takes place on a very small scale, but it reflects what is happening everywhere and takes different forms. One of these forms is currently the vast movement of so-called migrants, but who are in fact refugees leaving a country at war, especially Syria and Libya, in search of a land of peace. When you leave your country in haste, you give up everything: your house, your property, your land, your culture. Life is so horrible that one is ready to lose everything, in order to move out, hoping to find somewhere a form of oasis for oneself and one's family. One will have to knock at a door in the hope of being greeted. On the other end, whoever is welcoming must not have any illusion, for opening the door will cause upheavals. We will be jostled in our habits, like Dan. Things will not be like before on either side. There will be new responsibilities, and a death to a variety of little things. But what will come out of it? Perhaps life, a boundless life, provided one consents really in a deep love.

This framework, both in its individual and collective aspect, seems to me opportune to re-read the evangelical story well known of the rich man. We remember this man, full of enthusiasm and ardor, who asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. This is a Jewish question, for a good part of Judaism believed that God, at the end of time, would call everyone to judgment, both the dead and the living, and those who did good would inherit a blessed and unending life. Jesus' response is typically Jewish by recalling six commandments centered on the relationship to others and that could be summarized as this: do no harm to others and take care of your parents. We know the rest. As the man replies that these commandments reflect his whole life, Jesus begins to love him and wants to make him his disciple. And that's where things go wrong. Because he is rich, he has many things, and to follow Jesus implies to get rid of all that. He can not do it. He is not free enough. He went to Jesus in enthusiasm, but now he leaves him pitifully.

The reaction of Jesus is dramatic, it is like a deep cry from the heart: "How hard it will be for those who possess property to enter the domain of God". God's realm or God's kingdom expression could be replaced by life: it will be difficult for those who have many goods to enter life. This is paradoxical. For is it not common to think that having for example financial resources allows to enjoy life? It is so paradoxical that the followers of the Gospel are stunned. Where is the problem? Wealth is not bad in itself. Jesus accepted to eat with people who certainly had financial means, according to the biblical tradition, and it is a notable, Joseph of Arimathie, who will take care of his entombment. I repeat: where is the problem?

Let's go back to Dan. He had no accumulated financial wealth. His wealth was his freedom, his ability to live what he wanted and when he wanted. But in accepting to follow through his love, he renounced all that. He would die to many things he enjoyed in order to embark on a family life, with its challenges, its anxieties, its crises, but opening at the same time on a life so much wider. Here we have in miniature a part of the mystery of life: what we possess, where we are now, can bring us such satisfaction that we do not want to move, and the prospect of moving towards a greater life do not touch us until love arrives, whose strength will enable us to die to the past and introduce us into this new life. This is the power of God of which the Gospel speaks. Jesus loved, and our story explicitly notes that Jesus began to love this man, before calling him. But the love was not reciprocal: the man was attached to the religious precepts, but did not abandon himself to the love of the one who invited him to follow him, which love would have given him the strength to detach him from his possessions.

Love, I said, is what very often jostles us and makes us succeed in the miracle of detaching ourselves from our old being. But there are also situations where we are kicked in the ass by a catastrophe, a misfortune, a tragedy. Syria is a tragedy. Libya is a tragedy. These people who leave their country and abandon their world so to avoid physical death or a situation that is worse than physical death, and to find somewhere else life, at least a decent life. And they come to upset our tranquility, which is a form of wealth. Here is the same call to a rich man from Palestine two thousand years ago: take a distance from your world and agree to follow me. For the host country, it is to accept that his world will never be as before, that it will be composed of new faces and new responsibilities, as it was the case for Dan. For the migrant or the refugee, it will be the challenge to go to the end of the renunciation of one's native land, to avoid the temptation to rebuild one's world on the new earth, in order to be born to a new reality. All this can only succeed with the magic of love, that love that inhabited Jesus, and that is the power of God at work in the world.

Ever since we left the womb, we have not stopped dying to something in order to be born to a life so much wider. We can say: we enter into life to the extent that we die. What applies to individuals also applies to communities and societies. Thus, this encounter between the rich man and Jesus is a summary of all this mystery. The answer is in our hands.


-André Gilbert, Gatineau, October 2015