Sunday Sermon for October 14, 2012, the Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Orinary Time, Year B

Readings: Wis 7:7-11; Heb 4:12-15; Mk 10:17-30

In the first reading today we continue with the theme that we have seen many times in recent weeks, that of true wisdom. Solomon tells us that he prayed and pleaded and wisdom and prudence were given to him. He goes on to say that he preferred wisdom to anything else: power, riches or even health. Nothing, he says compared to her.

Do we understand things this way? Most of us think of wisdom merely in the worldly manner. We have seen over the past weeks that human wisdom is foolishness in the eyes of God. It is true that it can get us ahead in this world, but what about the next? In the Gospel we hear about a young man who was very wealthy. He was an upright man, admitting that he had followed the commandments from his youth. Having lived a good life, he was interested in getting to Heaven.

It is obvious that this man had much in the way of human wisdom, but he also had a heart that was good and open to divine wisdom. There are many in our world today who are like this. The wisdom God has given them on a natural level allows them to discern not only what can help them to get ahead in the world, but also distinguish right from wrong, good from evil and so on. These people often have a deep and abiding faith in God and they do a great deal of good for others.

However, when our Lord challenged the young man to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor his heart fell and he went away sad. All of his wisdom, his goodness, and even the fact that he was asking about eternal life was still not enough to lift him beyond the things of this world. He wanted all that this world has to offer and eternal life as well. Once again, this applies to many people in our day.

We must make the point that the things of this world that interest such people are not sinful in themselves, nor are they evil in any way. Notice that Jesus did not tell the man that he was sinning; rather He called the man to perfection in the spiritual life. This is the problem with the things the world affords: they keep us from growing spiritually to the degree the Lord is calling us. Just as the hot air balloon cannot ascend when the sandbags are in the basket, neither can we soar to the heights of the spiritual life if we are weighed down by our worldly goods.

We have to assess our goals and priorities. If God is the top priority then we will remove from our lives anything that would inhibit our progress toward Him. On the other hand, if God is merely a priority, then we place other things ahead of Him, even though He is important to us. This was the case of the young man in the Gospel today: God was important to Him, but his possessions were more important.

We might not think that that is the worst situation in the world since, after all, the young man appears to be in the state of Grace and getting to Heaven is obviously something he is concerned about, we can probably figure that he would be all right if he died today. However, the question, again, is about priorities. Do we just want to get to Heaven and love God somewhat, or do we want to love Him as much as we can for the rest of eternity? Since we have been commanded to love God with our whole heart and soul and strength, it does not seem like God thinks it to be a good option to love Him only part way.

This becomes important when we read what St. Paul says I the second reading that everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to Whom we must give an account. He knows what is in our hearts and He knows how much we love Him and how much we want to love Him. He also knows our priorities. So, we have to ask once again, is God the top priority in your life?

I know you would not be reading this if He were not a priority in your life. But we each have to look deeply within ourselves and ask what our reaction would be if the Lord were to tell us that we need to give up this thing or that. Would we be like the young man in the Gospel or would we be like the Saints we willingly give up everything to follow the Lord? The answer in your heart will reveal both your wisdom and your priorities.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit