Reflecting on Mark for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

From The Gospel of Mark, by Mary Healy, commenting on Mark 10:17-30


Jesus puts his finger on the source of the man’s dissatisfaction. Despite his fidelity to the law, he lacks the one thing necessary (see Luke 10:42). Why does Jesus tell him to sell all that he owns? Perhaps because the man was bound by his possessions and attached to the independence they made possible. They were the earthly treasure that was hindering him from freely receiving the heavenly treasure that was being offered to him.

Jesus wishes to set the man free to follow the true longing of his heart without reserve. And the relinquishment of his possessions is not to be an abstract, isolated act: he is to place himself in solidarity with the poor by giving the proceeds to them.

The Old Testament already recognized that to give alms to the needy is to store up treasure in the sight of God (Tob 4:7–11; Sir 29:8–12). Jesus is asking this man to become as dependent on God’s providence as children, to whom he has just said the kingdom belongs (10:14). He then offers the same invitation he gave his disciples earlier (Mark 1:17; 2:14): Come, follow me. Here is where the first tablet of the Decalogue comes in: it is in giving one’s life unconditionally to Jesus that the covenant obligation to love God is lived out. Jesus is in the place of God.

Tragically, the man cannot bring himself to pay such a high price, even for the “eternal life” that he so passionately seeks. The word for possessions can also be translated “properties” or “estates.” Evidently the man finds his security and comfort in earthly wealth and he is not willing to embrace the self-denial that leads to true wealth. It is a sobering conclusion to the story, the first time that Jesus’ invitation to discipleship has been directly refused.

© 2008 Mary Healy and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.