By James Cornwell
A Reading from the Gospel of Mark 10:17-31
17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
28 Peter began to say to him,”, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age — houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions — and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
In the film Black Robe, a French monk labors to bring the gospel to the Huron nation, who have never heard of Jesus. The Huron mock Black Robe’s chastity and are horrified at the idea of being peacemakers. After all, they are surrounded by hostile tribes who would take advantage of them, or even kill them, if they showed any weakness.
I won’t give away the journey that brings the film to its conclusion, but I will note some of the final lines:
You must help us, Black Robe. Do you love us?
Then baptize us.
The film notes in an epilogue that shortly after this encounter, the Huron were wiped out by the Iroquois.
The reading from the Gospel of Mark today underscores the potentially ruinous effects of Christian love. The text notes that, prior to telling the young rich man that he must sell all his possessions, Jesus “loved him.” It was this love that asked of the young man something that could destroy him.
I think we can be too quick to judge the young ruler. He is not saddened because he has specific defects of character, he’s saddened because what Jesus has asked him to do would ruin him. Everything he has worked for and, presumably, risked much to achieve would be lost. He doesn’t know how to be poor; he may even die!
This is the nature of Christian love. It asks you to let go of those things that protect you from death — whether it be a reputation for a tough, warlike nature or the security of great wealth — and be willing to let the world destroy you. This is not a nihilistic giving up of life; it is a giving over for the sake of the love you can’t live without.
But isn’t this to be expected? Love became human, and humans killed him. Why should those who receive such love fare any better? Yet it is only through losing our lives in this manner that, Jesus says, we may be saved.
James Cornwell lives and teaches in the Hudson Valley with his wife Sarah and their six children.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, New Orleans
The Diocese of Dunkwa-on-Offin (Church of the Province of West Africa)