Becoming All Flame

10.14. 18. Sun. wk 28  – O. T. – B

Wisdom 7: 7 – 11

Hebrews  4: 12 – 13

Gospel – Mark  10: 17 – 30

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good?  No one is good but God alone.  You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’”  He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”  Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “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.”  At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”  The disciples were amazed at his words. So †Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”  They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?”  Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”  Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.”  Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.         The Gospel of the Lord.

Homily:  Fr. Mike Murphy                            Becoming All Flame

I know I sound like a broken record with this – but: “We are all called to be saints”.  You have heard that over and over from me for a couple of decades at least.  We are to be holy as God is Holy and this call is repeated in the Scriptures from Mt. Sinai to the Sermon on the Mount – and through the Letters of St. Paul and St. John.  Each one of us has been given a personal invitation through our Baptism to imitate †Jesus.  We were Baptized in the image of †Jesus: “Priest, Prophet and King”; to be holy as †Jesus is Holy.  I look around at all of you, and I know many of you very, very well – I can honestly say: “This church is full of really good people – really good people.  We are so blest.  You are all sincere in your faith in God.  Yes, we struggle in life with weakness and sin – with living out fully our call to be saints, but we are all good people”!

In the Gospel today †Jesus meets this young man.  He is a good man; he keeps the commandments that were given to Moses on Mt. Sinai.  But †Jesus is asking him to be more than just a good person.  †Jesus is calling him to be a GREAT person.  This young man is not in need of conversion at all.  He is faithful to God, he is a pious Jew, he is a religious man, he is mature, he is committed to his Jewish faith, and he lives a life of virtue.  He is a good person who is not yet a saint, but †Jesus is calling him beyond goodness.  †Jesus is calling him to greatness – greatness.

Is this our struggle?  We live our daily life striving to be faithful to God; yes we also fall into moments of sin and selfishness.  But †Jesus reminds us of what any faith-filled person already knows: “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself”.

The young man in the Gospel, knew this too, but he was not ready to love with his all – yet.  He was not yet ready to surrender completely and totally to the Lord.  Do we love God and neighbor with our all?  Do we strive for greatness or have we settled for goodness?

In his book: “Sacred Fire” (Image Books, 2014, p. 137) – Fr. Ron Rolheiser relates a story from the Desert Fathers.  In this story – Abbot Lot said to Abbot Joseph: “As I am able, I keep my little rule and my little fast, my prayer, meditation and contemplative silence.  As I am able, I strived to cleanse my heart of bad thoughts, what more should I do”?  The elder Abbot, Abbot Joseph, stood up and stretched his hand toward the sky with his fingers reaching to the sky – and his fingers became like lamps of fire!  And he said to Abbot Lot: “Why not become all flame”?  “Why not become all flame”!

To become ‘all flame’ means to become a ‘GREAT’ disciple of †Jesus – to be a “living flame of God’s love”.  Using the term of St. John of the Cross: “To love to the maximum” (not to the minimum) but to the maximum.  “Go, sell what you have and give to the poor and then come, follow me”. (Mark 10:21) The young man in the Gospel story turned down this invitation of †Jesus.  He went to †Jesus as a rich young man.  He left †Jesus as a rich young man.  He did not go away from †Jesus as ‘a bad person’ – he want away from †Jesus as ‘a sad person’.  He did not lose anything except the opportunity – the greatness of becoming a saint.

Fr. Rolheiser writes of a priest who once compared his soul to a large mansion – and this mansion had thirty rooms in it, this priest said.  But he said he had given only 27 of those rooms to God.

He kept three of them for himself.  To walk along the road to holiness – to strive for greatness is to give up those last three rooms – those – last – three – rooms.

The difference between being a good person and a great person is that many of us hold back in giving ‘our all’ to the Lord – from giving to God the fullness that we have. “To become ‘flame’ is to give up those last three rooms” (Fr. Ron Rolheiser, Sacred Fire, p.141) – those things we hold on to.  Like the young man in the Gospel – He almost gave up everything to the Lord – but †Jesus was asking him to surrender the rest – and – he just couldn’t do it.  He was still a good person – but he wouldn’t be a great person.

This is the invitation that †Jesus is offering to us.  Our riches – our wealth – come in many forms not just in currency.  Perhaps – to be on the road to greatness – we are asked to give up our time to help to minister to others.  How many of you – signed up last weekend for a ministry – at our Ministry Fair?  That’s the way to get on the road to greatness or maybe tonight you’ll sign up for one of our Small Church Communities – and stop trying to just be good – but decide to take that step toward greatness.

When it comes to my spouse or family – am I holding on to those three private rooms for myself – rooms of ego – or work – recreation – or something else?  Are the three rooms that I am holding on to – my time – my talent – and my treasure?   Are those the three rooms I’m holding on to?  What are we protecting?  What are we keeping for our self that the Lord is asking for?  What do we need to explore in our prayer?  What am I keeping for myself that the Lord is asking me for?  Can I really deny Him anything He asks of me?

Perhaps you think what is being asked of you is not possible.  Some of His own disciples said the same thing and †Jesus said: “For human beings – you are right – it is impossible – but not for God.  All things are possible for God”. (Mark 10: 27)

If we accept the invitation of †Jesus to be ‘all flame’ – He will give us the grace to make it happen and we will not burn up.  The invitation is there – to mature from goodness to greatness – to be all flame – to give †Jesus our all – to be a saint – to be holy as He is Holy.

     In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.