Sunday, Oct. 14, is the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Wisdom 7:7-11, Psalm 90:12-17, Hebrews 4:12-13, Mark 10:17-30 or 10:17-27
Today’s readings tell the tale of what becomes of wisdom without love.
The Book of Wisdom gives a wonderful portrait of a noble soul, but the first reading is also a prelude to a tragedy.
"The spirit of wisdom came to me," King Solomon says. "I … deemed riches nothing in comparison with her, nor did I liken any priceless gem to her; because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand, and, before her, silver is to be accounted mire."
King Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, says Scripture. But it wasn’t enough to save him. He died an apostate, surrounded by his riches and surrendered to a life of sin.
The Gospel tells another tale of tragedy. In it, Jesus meets another wise man. This man says he has "observed [the Ten Commandments] from my youth," and Jesus seems to agree. But then Jesus says, "You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."
When this wise man hears those words, his face falls, and he goes away, "for he had many possessions."
What was the "one thing" the young man was lacking? It was the same thing Solomon was lacking: love.
"Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality," writes Pope Benedict XVI in his 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth). "Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love. It falls prey to contingent subjective emotions and opinions; the word ‘love’ is abused and distorted, to the point where it comes to mean the opposite."
St. Jerome was the famed scholar who translated the Bible. But he took more than a year away from his important work to serve refugees when a natural disaster flooded his region. "Today we must translate the precepts of the Scriptures into deeds," he said. "Instead of speaking saintly words, we must act them."
Many Catholics today have acquired a lot of wisdom and can defend the truths of the Catholic faith; Catholics need to study the faith by reading good books or by watching EWTN or by listening to apologetics CDs.
But real Christianity doesn’t just know the faith — it acts on it.
And we can’t be too attached to worldly goods. King Solomon and the young man were both rich, and they showed how riches can often prevent people from being able to follow Jesus.
As Pope Benedict explains in Caritas in Veritate, riches can choke off love: "Reduced to the mere accumulation of wealth, humanity loses the courage to be at the service of higher goods, at the service of the great and disinterested initiatives called forth by universal charity."
Be detached from worldly things, know your faith, and live it. It’s not just a prerequisite for salvation — it’s the key to happiness.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.