Not Admirers But Followers
10 October 2021, 28th Sunday in the Ordinary Time
Mk 10: 17-30
We all have desires in life. Most often, these desires are in a form of needs such as physiological, security, belonging, self-esteem and even to be self-actualized. In the Gospel reading, the young man, who is so rich, opens up to Jesus his ardent desire with a question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” I am just amazed with this question because normally, only children can inherit something from parents. And another thing, he wants to inherit something that is abstract: eternal life. What is eternal life?
As a deacon, I was assigned at St John Bosco Parish in Tondo. In one occasion, on which I administered the Sacrament of Baptism, I asked the parents and godparents who were present, “What is eternal life?” A father answered, “Eternal life is a life being with God.” (Ang buhay na walang hanggan ay buhay na kapiling ang Diyos.”) Moved by his reply, I asked a follow up question, “Bakit ito ang ninanais mo, bilang ama, para sa iyong anak?” (Why do you desire that your child shall live his life with God?). The father said, “Kung mawawala man ako sa mundong ito, lalaki ang anak ko na kasama si Kristo.” (If I die, my child grows up living with Christ.)
To be with God is eternal life. Eternal life is not a life that is long. The description “to be with God” is not an icing on a cake, a political color to attract voters and a slogan for marketing. All the readings of today invite us that to be with God, we need to go to the root. In other words, we are demanded to be radical in following the Lord. How?
First, pray for Wisdom. In the 1st Reading, Solomon, at the onset of his reign inherited from his father, King David, power, position and prestige. Being a son of a famous king, he was the rightful heir to the throne. Like his father, David, Solomon wanted to lead God’s people by being a follower of the Lord. But how did Solomon manifest his intention of radically following God? King Solomon prayed to God and asked for the gift of wisdom. Many of us think that wisdom is our capacity to apply what we have learned. Others opine that wisdom is the capacity to distinguish right from wrong. These can be true. But what is emphasized in the 1st Reading is that wisdom is not merely our own thinking and doing. It is a gift. Being a gift, ultimately wisdom comes from God. When we recognize God as the Source, the Giver and the Lord, we do not only possess wisdom. Wisdom possesses us.
Second, be open to the Word of God. Why? It is because the root of Christian discipleship is God’s Word which the 2nd Reading describes as living and effective. As followers of Christ, we cannot hide anything from Him. Because we take His Word, we reflect, we allow the message penetrate it to our hearts and we are challenged to respond to Him. With the Word of God, our head, our hearts and our hands are formed so that we can be agents of transformation to our families, communities, to our friends, to the Church and to the society. In doing so, we do not only act as recipients of the Word of God but we put into life this Word that is living and effective. Openness to God’s Word is not only manifested when we receive it but it is also true when we share it with others.
Third, radical discipleship is being witnesses of Jesus. In the Gospel, Jesus facilitated a process that enabled the rich young man to look, to listen and to love.
First, Jesus invited him to look at how much he knew. At this level, the man revealed to Jesus his knowledge of his religion by observing the commandments from his youth.
Second, Jesus led him to look at Him and to listen to Him. Right before the very eyes of the rich young man, what he was searching for as “eternal life” was just before him, looking at him, loving him and speaking to him as Wisdom and as the Word of God. As Jesus was doing these actions, the Lord was already pointing out that what the rich young man truly desires as eternal life is not just doing more for God but it is being with God.
But still, Jesus led him to a more radical perspective of eternal life: Go, sell what you have, give to the poor and follow me. To follow Jesus is to become a witness of Jesus’ ways of thinking, loving and acting. When God calls, He gives His all. But not only that God gives His all; God also asks all. This implies that witnessing to Jesus is to know, to love and to serve Him through others with an undivided heart.
Radical discipleship is witnessing to Jesus by living our faith, a faith that does justice, that cultivate the integrity of God’s creation and that enables us to build peace.
By calling us to follow Jesus from the root, the Lord is telling us that He does not need admirers but followers. Christian discipleship is difficult. And so, they asked Jesus, “Who can be saved?” Jesus replied, “…with God nothing is impossible.” The Lord fully knows and understands that we will struggle along the way of being with Him. That is why, we need God’s grace. What we are searching as eternal life is already accompanying us as grace. Grace is not something; it is Someone: It is the Lord!
Are we really giving up significant relationships, properties and our identity in following the Lord? Is it really giving up or being able to open in order to give? I think, it is the latter. Remember the Gospel acclamation, “Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.” If God is our priority, our identity, our relationships and our properties are put in order, in harmony and in peace.
What is eternal life? Rather, who is Eternal Life? It is Jesus. Jesus is the Wisdom; let us pray to Him. Jesus is the living Word; let us listen, love and live. Jesus never calls admirers but radical followers; let us be witness of Him. Amen.
Disclaimer: This section of the website is a personal creative writing of the author and does not necessarily reflect the official views, opinion, or policies of the Salesians of Don Bosco – Philippines South Province. For concerns on the content, style, and grammar of this piece, please contact us here.