The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench


Homily for October 11, 2009: 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra

Thumbnail image for Quandary_7PE.jpg

A few weeks ago, a remarkable story popped up, about fashion photographer Michael Belk.  His work has appeared in Vogue and GQ, but after many years of success, he felt compelled to do something more meaningful.  Belk is a devout Christian, who had been deeply affected by the events of 9/11. He decided to embark on an unusual photo project: to interpret the life of Jesus for the world today. 

And what he created is really extraordinary.  It’s called “Journeys with the Messiah.” It features photographs of Jesus, and he’s depicted as most of us would imagine him, with his beard and long hair and flowing robes.  But the photographer has placed him in surprising contemporary settings. 

One of the pictures depicts the incident in today’s gospel.

Jesus is shown talking to a young man.  But the man he’s speaking to is standing by a Ferrari, with a beautiful woman in the passenger seat. 

You see that and realize: no wonder the rich man went away sad.

I think this story is one of the challenging encounters in the gospels.  Christ is doing nothing less than telling his followers – and us – that it is almost impossible to get to heaven if you are rich.

But this morning, I’d like you to think about this episode a little bit differently. 

It’s not necessarily about money, or wealth.  It’s not necessarily about the material things that clutter up our lives – though I think that is an important part of this lesson.

No:  there is another level here, one that strikes at all of us, no matter what our economic class.

Mark tells us:  “The man went away sad, for he had many possessions.”  

At bottom, I think, this is a story about what we possess – and what possesses us.

[Continue after the jump...]


A few weeks ago, a remarkable story popped up, about fashion
photographer Michael Belk.  His
work has appeared in Vogue and GQ, but after many years of success, he felt
compelled to do something more meaningful.  Belk is a devout Christian, who had been deeply affected by
the events of 9/11. He decided to embark on an unusual photo project: to
interpret the life of Jesus for the world today. 

And what he created is really
extraordinary.  It’s called
“Journeys with the Messiah.” It features photographs of Jesus, and he’s depicted
as most of us would imagine him, with his beard and long hair and flowing
robes.  But the photographer has
placed him in surprising contemporary settings. 

One
of the pictures depicts the incident in today’s gospel.

Jesus
is shown talking to a young man. 
But the man he’s speaking to is standing by a Ferrari, with a beautiful
woman in the passenger seat. 

You
see that and realize: no wonder the rich man went away sad.

I
think this story is one of the challenging encounters in the gospels.  Christ is doing nothing less than
telling his followers – and us – that it is almost impossible to get to heaven
if you are rich.

But
this morning, I’d like you to think about this episode a little bit
differently. 

It’s
not necessarily about money, or wealth. 
It’s not necessarily about the material things that clutter up our lives
– though I think that is an important part of this lesson.

No:
 there is another level here, one
that strikes at all of us, no matter what our economic class.

Mark tells us:  “The man went away sad, for he had many
possessions.”  

At
bottom, I think, this is a story about what we possess – and what possesses us.

While
not all of us drive Ferrari’s or wear Armani, a lot of us cling to other things.  Things we possess that may be keeping
us from the Kingdom. 

We
may possess envy. Or Pride.  Or
Cynicism.  Or Anger. 

We
might be possessed by ambition.  Or
addiction.  Or prejudice.

These
things might make us feel comfortable, for a little while.  They may even make us feel rich and
powerful. 

But
they are useless.  They are
baggage.  They are just empty
possessions.   

There are many ways to be attached
to the world – and to be possessed by it. 
The challenge facing all of us as Catholic Christians is to detach, to separate
from it. 

It
requires surrender.  In fact, it
demands the kind of sacrifice that makes saints.   And isn’t that what all of us are called to be?

This
weekend, Pope Benedict is canonizing two people who serve as powerful examples
of what it means to detach from the world.  They gave away everything
they possessed, including their lives.           

Consider Jeanne Jugan.  She was a French peasant woman who was
deeply moved by the plight of the poor. 
She started a new religious order to care for them, the Little Sisters
of the Poor.   That, in and of
itself, was heroic.  But so was
what happened after. 

Just a couple years after Jeanne
Jugan founded the order, a priest was assigned to oversee it as chaplain.   He knew a good thing when he saw
it.  He had Jeanne Jugan
transferred to another convent, where she spent the rest of her life training
and working with the novices.  She
lived in utter obscurity, almost anonymity. 

The
chaplain was eventually removed from his post.  Yet when Jeanne Jugan died, many of the sisters who lived
with her had no idea that the woman who emptied bedpans and swept floors was
actually the foundress of their order.  It wasn’t until an inquiry 11 years after her death that the
truth came out. 

Jeanne
Jugan never told anyone.  She never
complained, never fought back, never pounded her fist and demanded credit.  She accepted a life of relative
unimportance and obscurity – and did it with humility and obedience and
love.  

I
told my wife: that’s one reason I’ll never be a saint.  

And
then there’s Fr. Damien of Molokai. 
Born in Belgium, he felt called to be a missionary, began studying for
the priesthood, and before he was ordained was sent to Hawaii. After much
prayer, he made a choice that would change his life.  He volunteered to go live among the lepers of Molokai.  He knew that it would probably be a
death sentence.  But he did it
anyway.

Eventually,
of course, he too contracted leprosy, and spent years of suffering until he
died from it.   A century later,
no less a figure than Gandhi would declare that this Catholic priest had
inspired him in his own work among the poor of India. 

“Sell all you have,” Jesus said in the
gospel, “and give to the poor and come follow me.”

St. Jeanne Jugan and St. Damien did
exactly that – and followed Christ all the way to the cross. 

They stand before us today as
martyrs – for, indeed, such selflessness and sacrifice are a kind of
martyrdom.  They gave away their
lives.  But they also gave away what
many might consider to be the riches of this world, some of the most precious
possessions.  Status and
honor.  Security and health. 

They
surrendered everything, for those who had nothing.

One
of the beautiful details of this gospel is the way in which Jesus spoke to the
rich young man.  Mark put it so
simply: “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.”

Jesus
didn’t judge the rich young man, didn’t view him with contempt or scorn.

No.  He loved him.

And
so he loves us.  And so he speaks
to each of us now, no matter how rich or how poor we might be. 

Give
up whatever is holding you back, he says. 
Do the hardest thing you can imagine.  And follow me.

 And
so we are left to ask: what are those things that are holding us back?

 What
do I possess?  Or what possesses
me? 

 Am
I willing to give it away – surrender it — and follow Christ?  

 It
may be a Ferrari.  But maybe not.
Maybe it’s not something you keep in your garage.  

 Maybe,
just maybe, it’s something you possess in your heart.

           

 

               



Advertisement
Comments read comments(5)
post a comment
Deacon Lou Malfara

posted October 10, 2009 at 12:26 pm


THANKS, as I’m planning my homily for tomorrow’s Mass, I was thinking along these same lines. I like the modern version of the rich young man in the painting. Deacon Lou Malfara, Phila.



report abuse
 

Art

posted October 10, 2009 at 7:31 pm


Selfless acts of love to a sick and sying world are what give us the heart like Jesus has. Charity and to come to God with the loving childlike heart get us the grace and mercy that only God can give.
Take up thy cross and follow me, Jesus said. This is the way.
Thanks Deacon Greg, your writing is admirable and touches ones mind as well as heart. Keep on Keeping on! Jesus is Lord



report abuse
 

Deacon Dale Metcalfe

posted October 11, 2009 at 12:42 am


I am also working on my homily for tomorrow. I also have been thinking along these same lines but one difference is I think that all too many people are “rich” in things that we wouldn’t normally think of such as failures, disappointments and even sins. All too many people let their sins cling to them and accumulate like “dust bunnies” to the point that they become over laden with their baggage of failure, sins etc. Until they, like the rich, are willing to give these up to Jesus, they will never be able to pass through the eye of the needle. They need to let go and let God.



report abuse
 

Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

posted October 11, 2009 at 4:59 pm


Beautiful homily – I read it earlier and did not comment, but I have had it on my heart all day. And with the reminder of the great art, which you introduced me to a month or so ago.
To give up what we seemingly can’t can be, as you indicate, many things, not just material wealth. I have a lot of thoughts about this but few words to offer.
Thank you Deacon Greg.



report abuse
 

Your Name

posted October 12, 2009 at 4:22 pm


Deacon Greg, Great message as usual and a wonderful tribute to our new saints. As for the young man in the gospel, I’ve always liked to think that after he went away sad, he went home and did exactly what Jesus asked. The gospel doesn’t tell us that of course, but if he did I’ll wager he wasn’t sad anymore!
Thanks for all you do.



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

This blog is no longer active
This blog is no longer being actively updated. Please feel free to browse the archives or: Read our most popular inspiration blog See our most popular inspirational video Take our most popular quiz

posted 10:42:40pm Dec. 12, 2010 | read full post »

One day more
A reminder: "The Deacon's Bench" is closed! Please enjoy the archives!

posted 11:26:20pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »

Meet Montana's married priest
Earlier this week, I posted an item about Montana getting its first married priest. Now a local TV station has hopped on the bandwagon. Take a look, below.

posted 10:29:55pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »

Big day in the Big Easy: 10 new deacons
Deacon Mike Talbot has the scoop: 10 men today were ordained as Permanent Deacons for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. This group of men was formally selected on the day the evacuation of New Orleans began as Hurricane Katrina approached. The immediate aftermath of the storm for this class would be

posted 6:55:42pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »

Gaudete! And let's break out a carol or two...
"Gesu Bambino," anyone? This is one of my favorites, and nobody does it better than these gals: Kathleen Battle and Frederica von Staade. Enjoy.

posted 1:04:10pm Dec. 11, 2010 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.