Amos 5:6-7,10-15; Mark 10:17-31 (below): Our readings this week are all about generosity and social justice. It may be news to many Americans, but putting the urgent needs of the poor ahead of the wishes of the rich is one of the most consistent themes of the Bible.
Amos levels his tirade against the well-off, not because they have things, but because their eagerness to have things shoves neighbors aside and turns them into a faceless crowd. Their possessions become locked doors to shut people out. And they shut God out too. The reign of God is all about being caught up together into the common life that God already is, and you can’t let that happen if instead you’re caught up into a private, insulated lifestyle.
That seems to be the rich man’s problem in today’s Gospel. Jesus takes an instant liking to him and wants him to join his movement, but the man can’t do that and still hold on to all he has, so he gives up and goes away. Jesus comments that it practically takes a miracle to get the rich to join in God’s common life. Fortunately, though, that’s the kind of miracle God has in mind.
And part of the miracle, apparently, is that people who join in God’s common life experience receiving a hundred times more than they gave up—but not on conventional terms.
Jesus is talking about the reign of God, being caught up together into the common life that God already is. And that’s not a life that shuts out the suffering and brokenness of the world.
This is a life offered and blessed and broken and shared, just like bread and wine, just like Jesus’ life, just like God’s life. It’s a life that transforms all the things you and I have from locked doors into doors thrown open to let the pains and joys of the world inside. We’re told over and over again that this is the only life worth living because, in the final analysis, it’s the only life that ever gets fully lived. Anything less is a cheap imitation.
Amos 5:6-7,10-15: Seek the Lord and live, or he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire, and it will devour Bethel, with no one to quench it. Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to the ground! They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth. Therefore, because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins—you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate. Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time. Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said. Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
Mark 10:17-31: As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”