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.