There is one question that follows us through life. It gets louder as we get older. It is intrusive when we are not ready for it. It is provocative during periods of personal trials. And it becomes hopeful when we are terminally ill. This question is the question of faith: Do we believe in God?
Believing in God offers one reward – eternal life. But often we do not want to dwell on the prospect of life after death, so we postpone our answer to this question of faith as long as death, we figure, is still a long way off. Even if we say “no” as our answer, the question will return when experiences in life becomes challenging. It follows us.
“‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.” (Today’s Gospel)
This is how the question follows us through life. It follows us as a niggling reminder when our body is distracted by earthly pleasures and pays homage to earthly riches. To be wealthy is not a sinful temptation until it takes us away from God. When we can have everything we want, why do we need God?
“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”.
God is always faithful. He does not desert the people who answered “no”. He is always waiting and calling. God is an opportunist; he uses our life experiences to pop the question of faith but is patient for us to process our answer. Life experiences are when we encounter our spirit. It speaks to us like a soft, inner voice. It understands our human desires. It desires only good for us. Sometimes, it will take us down paths our body do not want to go but at the end of that path our body will understand our spirit, for we always come out of life experiences better for it.
“Indeed the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart”. (Today’s second reading)
Life is littered with experiences. God is always present in them. Experiences join the dots that make out our journey in faith. One experience lead into another. Faith grows through life’s bitter sweet experiences. Wisdom is gained from such experiences. Without wisdom, our answer will always remain “no”.
“I prayed, and understanding was given me; I entreated, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me. I esteemed her more than sceptres and thrones; compared with her, I held riches as nothing. I loved her more than health or beauty. In her company all good things came to me, at her hands riches not to be numbered.” (Today’s first reading)
“Sell everything and follow me” is a process. In that process our wisdom grows. It will grow into a spiritual enlightenment when we realize that indeed it is worth exchanging our earthly riches for heavenly treasures, for God will fulfil his promise to reward us a hundredfold. However far we may feel distant from God today, we must answer the question that follows us everywhere only with the smallest and weakest of “yes”.
Then leave that with him. “For men’ he said ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God’”.
28th Sunday of Ordinary Time