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Facing interiority

Today’s readings: Wisdom 7, 7-11; Hebrews 4, 12-13; Mark 10, 17-30.

Today’s readings should convince us all that we need an overhaul in our understanding of what Christian living is about. Many of us may still think Christian life in terms of morality, not killing and stealing, not being blasphemous or missing Mass on Sunday.

We may argue in depth on all this. But if we stick only to these, then there is something basic lacking in our perspective.

The reading from Hebrews sets the tone for something that may not be music to our ears. It speaks of radicality, of God’s Word, which is alive and active, which cuts like a sword, which can slip through the place where the soul is divided from the spirit, which can judge secret emotions and thoughts.

This all boils down to the fact that the Word of God, if listened to with the heart, puts us face to face with our interiority. This can generate fear and anxiety.

As John O’Donohue writes in his book Anam Cara, “A world lies hidden behind each human face”. The human face carries mystery and is the exposure point of the mystery of the individual life.

This is what Jesus does in the man who ran up to him enquiring about what to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus looked steadily at him and that moment sufficed to open the unchartered, inner world of this man.

All moments in life can be moments of grace or moments missed. For this man, being taken by surprise, sadness took over.

Many a time sadness or happiness are consequences of choices we make. Reacting to this, Jesus says it is hard for those who have riches to enter the Kingdom of God.

Having riches does not necessarily mean being rich. The emphasis is on ‘having’, possessing, which can also be ‘being possessed’ by what we have or losing the order of priorities.

The Book of Wisdom says: “I prayed, and understanding was given me; I esteemed wisdom more than scepters and thrones; compared with her, I held riches as nothing”.

What the gospel and the Book of Wisdom are today proposing is another way of looking at things in order to grasp their real significance compared to life in itself. Otherwise we remain stuck in the immediacy of the things we have, with the risk of them taking over.

Being wise is not the same as being knowledgeable. Many today find it hard to believe in heaven because, from our standpoint, it may seem too good to be true.

But what they actually do is they create their little heavens here, miserable images of what reality can be. Yet we should beware from rendering religion a consolatory fable. Wisdom is not wishful thinking or daydreaming. Wisdom gives the real measure of things.

Bill Medley, a professional comedian and religious sceptic, wrote a book entitled Religion is for Fools. That is what he believed until, as he explains, he himself had a change of heart.

At times there was foolishness in the air when we tried to come across with children’s stories, knowing that as grown-ups they would understand they were not true. Religion is not just a feel-good factor. It deals with truths.

The man in the gospel who desired to achieve the whole, missed that whole for the part.

We also, in some way or other, live fragmented lives, clinging more to the immediacy of things and of what happens without seeking the deeper perspective. It is wisdom that provides this perspective, that helps us embrace life, that provides the remedy against anxiety and sadness.

In the face of all the terrible things that happen daily we are all basically non-believers. Yet wisdom can keep us from despairing, from falling prey to fear, and from escaping the loving gaze of he who knows it all.

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