"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
October 14: 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
• Wisdom 7:7-11
Overview: Some things are more important than others. This week’s readings focus on what’s most important. The first reading extols wisdom as the highest value, above success, prosperity and even health. The author also praises prudence, which may be defined as practical wisdom. The catechism calls prudence “the charioteer of the virtues” because it guides all the other virtues (CCC 1806). Material comfort isn’t bad, but there are some things that are more important than riches or renown, fitness or even health.
The second reading relates to wisdom insofar as it focuses on the word of God, which is “sharper than a two-edged sword” and is able to “discern the thoughts of the heart.” The word of God exposes us to the light of truth who knows us better than we know ourselves.
Finally, in this week’s Gospel we hear about a rich man who was drawn to Jesus, but was unwilling to follow him because he had many possessions. When he called Jesus “good” the Lord replied, “Why do you call me good?” Jesus wanted him to understand that the answer to his question, “what good must I do?” can only come from the One who alone is Good, namely God. “Only God,” Blessed John Paul II said “can answer the question about what is good.” The difficulty for the rich man wasn’t in his head—he knew the commandments. He knew the truth. The problem was in his heart. He knew what was right, but he lacked the will to do it.
Key verse: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10:17)
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant” (No. 2563).
Pope Benedict XVI: “How can the free world do justice to its moral responsibility? Freedom preserves its dignity only as long as it retains the relationship to its ethical foundations and to its ethical task. A freedom that consisted solely in the possibility of satisfying one’s needs would not be human freedom, since it would remain in the animal realm. An individual freedom without substance dissolves into meaninglessness” (“Values in the Time of Upheaval”).
Application: The rich man went away sad because his attachment to possessions prevented him from following Christ and the true meaning of life. He did ask the right question though. Despite his selfishness, he recognized the connection between the good and his eternal destiny. As Americans we tend to be very pragmatic and things like worship, faith and prayer seem like a waste of time to a lot of people. And yet it’s the lack of faith and Godly wisdom, and the predominance of materialism and the quest for riches that underlies so many of our current problems. We need to be free from attachment to worldly things so we can be free for the most important things.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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