Sunday Scriptures

The Only Treasure Worth Possessing

ONE OF THE most tragic stories in the Bible is that of Solomon, who started off wise, but ended up being foolish and broken. He wasn’t born with the extraordinary wisdom for which he became famous, but rather, he asked God to give him that wisdom so that he could be, above all, a wise, just and good king for the people of Israel.

The Scriptures tell us that God was enormously pleased with him. Solomon might have asked Him for riches or power. He might even  have asked for strength in battle so that he could defeat the enemies of his people. Rather, it was wisdom for which he asked so that he could be a good king.

Greater Than Gold

The first reading from the Book of Wisdom reflects that petition to the Father in Heaven and shows us how much Solomon learned to appreciate the gift he was given. Wisdom is, for him, more precious than the throne of Israel, more priceless than any gem, more rich than gold and brighter than any worldly light. When he gained wisdom, he says, all other good things came to him and he prospered as a king. He was great because he was good, which is the best thing that could be said of any of us.

However, as time went by he lost his grip on that gift of wisdom, worshipping other gods to please his wives and becoming mixed in the sinfulness of the world. Ironically, he wasn’t someone who went from darkness to light, but rather a man who had held the light in his hands and mind and heart, and then lost it. After his time, the Kingdom of Israel became divided and was weaker and more vulnerable. That is how important wisdom is and that is how terrible it is to lose it.

It goes without saying that Jesus Our Lord was a fountain of wisdom. In fact, He went out of His way to teach people that wisdom was really the only treasure worth possessing. Some people listened to Him, but some did not.

In the Gospel today from St. Mark, the man He encounters on his journey is a lot like the young Solomon. He has a lot of the gifts that the world can give, but realizes that he is still needy because he still needs to possess eternal life. He approaches Jesus with a good and willing heart to seek that precious gift. Jesus looks at him and sees the good so evidently present that He regards him with real affection. He tells the young man that, having kept the commandments as he should, the only thing left to do  is to let go of the world and seek his treasure in Heaven.

Ephemeral Things

At this point, the young Solomon falls into the trap that eventually defeated the older Solomon. He just cannot give up his worldly possessions and so, he loses his way to the Kingdom of Heaven. As it was with Solomon, this is a tragedy: Jesus knows it and so does the sad young man.

We all long for the treasures of this world. In and of themselves those treasures are not bad things (Ever buy a lottery ticket? Me too.). However, as the author of Hebrews tells us today, it will never be the passing treasures of this world that will ultimately count,  but rather the “…Word of God (that is) living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword … and able to discern the reflections and thoughts of the heart.”

If we have the wisdom that  comes from God’s  Word,  only then will we have everything that really matters. Without the wisdom that understands this, all we will have is the sand of this world, running  through our fingers.

Questions Are a Sign of Faith

As we noted above, some people, like that sad young man, weren’t able to hear what Jesus was saying, but some others did hear Him, loud and clear.  This is what makes the Apostles such loveable, scruffy heroes. They are amazed when Jesus says that the wealth of this world can be an obstacle between them and the Kingdom of God, but instead of walking away,  they question Him. Part of true wisdom is the realization that no one ever committed a sin by asking the Son of God a question. Questions are not a sign of sinfulness; They are a sign of faith.

When Jesus explains His teaching to them, Peter responds with the words: “We have given up everything  and followed You.”

Jesus then reminds him – and us – that if we leave behind the treasures of this world and seek first the Kingdom of God, we will inherit “a hundred times more in this present age.” One of those things, He says, will be the persecution He describes that comes right before “… the eternal life in the age to come.”

It is up to us, just as it was for Solomon, the rich young man and for Peter. We can simply walk away from the Kingdom of God as the rich young man did. We can accept the wisdom of God and then decide to reject it, as Solomon did. Or we can think about all of this, ask for God’s wisdom and then hold onto it tightly for all of our lives. If we do that, we will end up like Peter, who eventually realized how wise it would be to be crucified upside-down on Vatican Hill because he remembered that the step right after would be eternal life in the Kingdom of the only Wisdom that will ever really matter.

Readings for 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wisdom 7: 7-11

Psalm 90: 12-13, 14-15, 16-17

Hebrews 4: 12-13

Mark 10: 17-30 or Mark 10: 17-27

Father Raso is a parochial vicar at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Dyker Heights.

Share this article with a friend.