First reading: Job 23:1-9, 16-17, Ps. 22:1-15 Alternate: Amos 5:6-7, 10-15, Ps. 90:12-17 • Heb. 4:12-16 • Mark 10:17-31
The prophetic voice is vile to a transgressing beast. “They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth” (Amos 5:10). And yet the moral order the prophet presumes is the very foundation of any attempt to construct a just and equitable society. “Establish justice in the gate, that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious” (Amos 5:15). It is a moral law with a simple arithmetic. Love the good, establish justice, and the Lord will be gracious. Trample the poor, afflict the righteous, take bribes, push aside the needy, and the Lord will break out against your house like fire. In our increasingly secular society, many doubt that the Lord God acts, but still believe goodness deserves goodness and evil deserves evil. That which a man sows, he reaps.
The prophet, however, would have nothing to say if the logic of his reasoning followed hard upon the execution of any particular act, good or evil. If justice were swift and fair, who would dare offend? Instead, transgressors, escaping punishment, are emboldened and sense with a sinister joy their success in tricking the law. Let others do what is right, I do what I want. Let others consider the common good, I consider my advantage alone. The poor at my gate: I push them aside with disgust and move on to my next financial gain.
At the other end of this moral spectrum, the good person may search in vain for his requisite reward. Even worse, he may suffer for righteousness’ sake, and if his heart adheres to the one true God, he may feel that the divine hand is “heavy despite my groaning” (Job 23:1). Still, in all this moral mess, in all this “delay,” a cry goes out. How long! Job would put his case before the Almighty, his mouth is filled with arguments, he awaits and expects an answer. He insists that God will not come in the greatness of his power, but will “give heed to me” (Job 23:6). But God does come in power, answering while not answering the moral question.
Who are we? We are the good people of God. We are the sons and daughter of Adam. We are loving and good. We are corrupt, petty, and bad. We are trying to get away with something. We do good and then ask, “What good is goodness?” Into this moral misery, God sent his Son, the one “who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.” He sympathizes with our weakness and feels our moral plight. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is Logos, he is a recapitulation of our humanity, its restoration to a pristine design. He is the answer to How long?
Because he has been with us, has been and is our very selves, we have nothing to fear. “We approach the throne of grace with boldness” (Heb. 4:16). Jesus listens. He also looks. His transfixing eyes go out to us. He sees who we are, and this inner seeing is his love. Seeing us, he loves us, and says, “There is one thing you lack” (Mark 10:21). Every day he says this.
In this dangerous world, we yearn for the restoration of every shattered fragment. Jesus is that restoration. Jesus is a huge open ear to our cries. He is a flaming eye that wounds us in love. He speaks.
Look It Up
Read Mark 10:21. Treasure in heaven? Jesus has a Word.
Think About It
Grace is auxilium opportunum, the right help at the right time! It is also a piercing word: “You lack one thing!”