FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE 28th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, October 10, 2021:
One day, two friends were walking along the crowded streets of a big city. The street was full of the noise of people, cars, busses, construction – the hubbub of city life. Suddenly, one of the friends stopped and said, “Can you hear that cricket?” The other friend said, “You can’t possibly hear a cricket with all this noise.” The man walked over to a planter along the sidewalk, pushed aside some branches, sure enough, there was the cricket. His friend was shocked, “How did you hear that?” The man simply said, “It just depends on what you’re listening for. Let me show you what I mean.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of change and dropped them on the sidewalk. Immediately, every head turned in his direction. “You see,” he said again, “it just depends on what you are listening for.”
Our Gospel today asks us the same question, “What are you listening for?” We heard today the rich young man ask Jesus a straight-forward question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus tells him, “Sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” The story ends that “he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” I always feel sorry for this young man. He certainly meant well. He was a good and faithful person, following all of God’s commands from his youth. But, what Jesus asks of him is just too much to for him to bear.
Did you know this young man is the only person in the Gospels that we are specifically told refused to follow Jesus once invited? Imagine saying “no” to Jesus invitation in your life. The rich young man had the right desire – how to attain eternal life – but unfortunately for him, his possessions meant more. So, what was he listening for? This man was faced with a choice – security with Jesus, or security in the bank; rely on Jesus or rely on wealth. It is a human predicament that we’ve all felt at one time or another, and the sad situation of this passage is that the young man chose to listen to the voice of the world instead of the voice of the Lord.
This passage reaches out to us today and asks us the same question, “What voice are we listening to?” What is holding us back from following Jesus completely? What is it that’s causing us to drag our feet? It could be our money or possessions as it was for the young man; or it could be something else – like grudges we refuse to let go of; the forgiveness we fail to seek out or to offer to others; maybe it’s the indifference to the struggles of others. You see, to follow Jesus is to follow in love. “Love one another, just as I have loved you,” He told us.
I wonder sometimes what happened to the rich young man. Did he become a rich old miser? Did his money ever make him happy? Did he lose it all along the way? Jesus visited him and invited him into the wonder of a life lived for Christ – a life that makes a difference; a life that matters. He walked away. He missed the chance to do good; to reach out to people; to serve Jesus in the world as His follower. Imagine if our spiritual heroes and heroines had made the same bad choice. What if St. Paul had said no; or St. Peter or St. Andrew or St. Mary Magdalene or St. Pope John Paul II, St. Mother Teresa, or the countless other holy men and women we honor in the Communion of Saints. These are women and men whose lives made a real difference in the world because they chose to say yes when Jesus said, “Follow me.”
The famous Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why.” We are reminded today that Jesus is the answer to the second part of that statement. Jesus is the “why” that makes all the difference in our lives. Pope Benedict said, “The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness!”
You know, I like to think that the rich young man eventually came to his senses. I like to imagine that after walking away with a sad heart, he realized his mistake and not only returned, but came back to Jesus running. I like to believe that he changed his mind and made a choice with all of his mind, his heart, and his being – and followed Jesus all the way to the eternity he first asked about. I like to think that he realized the most valuable possession in his life is his faith and the relationship that Jesus invited him into – and that in the end, he made a difference.
“All things are possible for God…There is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more.”
So, what are you listening for? What has the greatest hold on your heart? May we too be possessed by nothing more than our love of God, our desire to serve, our hunger for holiness, and our call to make a difference in our world.
May the Lord give you peace.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.