bible blog 161

This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church

Reading 1,  1 Peter 1:3-9

3 Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead 4 and into a heritage that can never be spoilt or soiled and never fade away. It is reserved in heaven for you 5 who are being kept safe by God’s power through faith until the salvation which has been prepared is revealed at the final point of time.

6 This is a great joy to you, even though for a short time yet you must bear all sorts of trials; 7 so that the worth of your faith, more valuable than gold, which is perishable even if it has been tested by fire, may be proved — to your praise and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 You have not seen him, yet you love him; and still without seeing him you believe in him and so are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described; 9 and you are sure of the goal of your faith, that is, the salvation of your souls.

Because the converts hope to share the resurrection of Jesus, they believe their true heritage is beyond this place and time. Should we say, in heaven? Perhaps better just to say, in God and the life God gives, whether on earth or elsewhere. The effect of this living hope is to give the believers courage to endure in the midst of difficulties. The idea that hope in resurrection leads people away from engagement with the real problems of life on earth, is rebutted by the biblical witness, that precisely those who have that hope, are unfettered by the present conditions of life.

A point to note is that although the earliest Christian witnesses spoke of salvation as affecting the whole person (The resurrection of the body), this letter has begun to speak of the salvation of the “soul”. Probably this usage arose from the Hebrew word “nephesh” usually translated “soul” but meaning the “life” of any creature. In time however, it allowed for a separation of body and soul, and the assigning of salvation only to the latter.

Gospel, Mark 10:17-27

17 He was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, ‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’

18 Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: You shall not kill; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not give false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’

20 And he said to him, ‘Master, I have kept all these since my earliest days.’

21 Jesus looked steadily at him and he was filled with love for him, and he said, ‘You need to do one thing more. Go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 22 But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

23 Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’

in spite of Jesus' warning

24 The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them, ‘how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for someone rich to enter the kingdom of God.’

26 They were more astonished than ever, saying to one another, ‘In that case, who can be saved?’

27 Jesus gazed at them and said, ‘By human resources it is impossible, but not for God: because for God everything is possible.’

The Jesus of Mark’s gospel is particularly unimpressed by wealth and power, even to the extent of refusing honorific titles for himself: he rejects the enquirer’s “Good Master,” emphasising the equality of sinful people before God. The honesty and joy of this equality is something the rich man lacks. Jesus sees a man who is sincere in his decency, but enslaved by the possession of wealth. As long as the man wants above all to hold the power his wealth gives him, he can’t share the equality of God’s kingdom.

The Jewish tradition held that the rich had been blessed by God with wealth, so Jesus’ attitude is a radical reversal of the popular theology of his time, and of ours.

There is a sort of radical theology that talks of Jesus’ bias to the poor. That seems wrong to me, and open to the misinterpretation that Jesus loved the poor and not the rich. It’s clear in this story that it’s out of love that Jesus wants the man freed from his wealth. Jesus’ bias is towards a shared equality-this was correctly implemented by the first churches-because under God’s rule every person must have enough.

Yet in spite of Jesus’ warning, there are a lot of camels in the Christian church that think they’ve squeezed their humps through the eye of that needle.

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