Tuesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
God does not accept bribes (we read in Sirach 35 today). Is that a relief to hear or a disappointment? We cannot “pay” or work our way into God’s kingdom. We also read that God is a God of justice, who “knows no favorites.” If you think you’re on God’s “good side,” this may be difficult to hear. How often do we believe that if we are on our best behavior we deserve to be rewarded by God; or when tragedy or bad times fall upon us, we start to
wonder and question what we did to deserve this lot in life, “am I being punished?”.
Some of this does come from our tradition given that in the Old Testament, wealth was considered a sign of God’s favor. So, the inverse would be assumed if one is not wealthy, and especially poor, although we read from Sirach that this is not necessarily the case! Jesus also brings a different understanding of wealth and salvation, and the disciples are stunned by this as we read in yesterday’s gospel story of the wealthy man who walked
In today’s gospel (Mark 10:28-31), the story continues with Peter pointing out to Jesus (maybe a little insecurely), “We have given up everything and followed you.” And in Matthew’s version of this gospel passage Peter goes on to add, “What will there be for us?”! It sounds like Peter is in that old, bribery-like mindset or playing “let’s make a deal” with God. (Given that I’ve been guilty of that at least once in my life, I’m thankful we have the
disciples in all their humanity to learn from.)
Back to Mark’s version of the story, Jesus goes on to tell the disciples that they will receive “a hundred times more now in this present age…” and then seems to practically slip in there, “with persecutions,” before adding, “and eternal life in the age to come.” So, what do we make of that? Well, we know that when Mark’s gospel was written, Jesus’ followers were at risk of persecution even to the point of death. And I wonder if this was the author’s way of saying that discipleship is difficult and not about the earthly rewards that some may have been hoping for. And perhaps that we sometimes hope for.
Maybe, like Peter, we sometimes ask, “what’s in it for us?”, which I think is a naturally human question that we may need to honestly reflect on. Hopefully, not so much what and when will I get my rewards, but what is my true motivation in following Jesus? What draws me to this path, this journey that does involve self-sacrifice and losing one’s life in order to save it?
As we enter the Lenten season this week, let us take the time to reflect on how we are called to give up everything and follow Jesus. What does that look like in each of our unique lives? May I offer my life to God, not as a “bribe” but as a gift of love, remembering that God knows no favorites, all are equally loved with generous abundance.