Wisdom 7: 7-11; Hebrews 4: 12-13; Mark 10: 17-30
We live in a time often referred to as the “Information Age”. We all have little gadgets in our pockets that we can pull out and find a wealth of knowledge, information, useless facts, and you name it, all at our fingertips. It’s become something like an extra appendage of ours as we carry them around, always in contact and answers without any kind of wait. Yet, there’s a downside to it all. We have, in many ways, lost a sense of mystery or the unknown, when we would have to wait for information or news and now it comes with just a click. We’ve also lost a sense of truth and depth. Ironically, the truth seems to always be the people I agree with and yet a deeper sense of truth is gone. The very thing that was supposed to keep us connected has in many ways made us even less so, leaving us with a deeper hunger and thirst for something more out of life, a deeper sense of truth, wisdom, and connectivity. All of us, as well, who learned computers early on learned first hand that they are binary, the ones and zeros, and nothing more. That too feeds into the great divide that exists and separation that exists. We never have to leave our corners but it also leaves us wanting more of the wrong thing rather than truth, wisdom, connectivity that can only come by allowing us to grow more deeply in our humanity rather than trying to make ourselves into computers.
Solomon, in the Book of Wisdom, points the way with such beauty. Like us, he looked for satisfaction out of all the ways of the world, through power, position, wealth, possessions, even health as he points out today. Yet, nothing seemed to satisfy the deeper longing in his heart. All of the ways of the world simply seemed to pass and he was left all the more hungry for something out of life. He takes the turn inward, growing in relation to the living word of God, and his life begins to change. He begins to grow more deeply into the truth and wisdom that he desired, spelling it out for us today in such beautiful feminine language. Solomon learns, as we all do, that the only way to wisdom isn’t through knowledge and information, nor even the ways of the world. Rather, for Solomon it was growing more deeply into his own humanity, learning the nuances of life rather than the binary ways of the world, connecting with the deeper places within his heart and soul. It wasn’t by accumulating anything, but rather learning to let it go and creating space for the true God and Solomon grows into one of the great wisdom figures.
It was the same for the writer of Hebrews and the community in which he writes. This is a community that had grown stagnate and drifting away from its mission and purpose. They had lost sight of their own deeper humanity and connectivity and had grown bored with the word, no longer capable of hearing and listening and being moved by the Word. The writer reminds them and us that the true Word is living and effective, sometimes even when we aren’t expecting it, cutting us like a two-edged sword. A relationship with the Word is the only one that can cut through the hardening that begins to happen in our lives or even the numbing that takes place by staring at screens, objectifying our humanity rather than growing more deeply into it. Ultimately, it’s our own thirst for knowledge and thinking we need to know and accumulating information that leaves us hungering for more while feeling empty. It begins the slow process of disconnecting us from our hearts.
Of course, we then come to the pinnacle with the story of the rich man in today’s gospel. Here’s a man who had everything. He had wealth. He had power. He had position. Heck, he even thought he was perfect in the eyes of God and was in a very binary way. He had the life so many dream of. Yet, despite literally having it all, including a knowledge of this God, it wasn’t enough. He was left feeling empty and still wanting more out of life. He settled for hiding behind his own screen per se, when it came to God, rather than entering into relationship. His way of thinking and this desire for perfection, often associated with being right and superior, became an obstacle towards God. All we know is as the story is told that he leaves sad. There is a deep sadness that hangs over this man and he walks away. He’s sad because he couldn’t give up his possessions. He was even more sad because he recognized that they also would never satisfy that longing within. After an encounter with the living Word in Jesus, he doesn’t feel all warm and fuzzy, but rather a deep sadness of what his life had become and yet feels trapped within by his own choosing. We never know if that Word finally penetrates his heart and moves him to a deeper place in his own humanity and to enter into relations with the most vulnerable, the poor. It was easier to keep them at a distance. Yet, the two-edged sword cuts him straight through where it needs to, straight through his heart. Wisdom and truth aren’t found by accumulating knowledge, information, or wealth of any kind, rather, by letting go and for him, that seemed impossible.
It feels impossible for all of us. We become possessed by our possessions, whatever they may be. It may be easier to keep staring at a screen and keep accumulating information, but it will keep falling short and leaving us wanting more in life. We desire that deeper wisdom and truth, that sense of connectivity and intimacy, but it’s not going to come in the ways we’re told of the world. Rather, it comes through relationship with the living Word and through our relationships with others. It comes through getting it wrong and failing more often than trying to present ourselves as perfect. It comes with growing more deeply into our own humanity where we learn to see the other as ourselves rather than separate from. Our hearts are easily hardened. The heart of a nation and the heart of the world often stand frigid, resulting in the divisions and wars and continued poverty, sacrificing our humanity for worldly powers. As with the rich man in today’s gospel, the choices are all placed in our hands as well. Will we allow our possessions, whether wealth, information, phones, knowledge, or whatever, continue to possess us, captivating all our attention, leaving us hungering and thirsting for more out of life or will we allow ourselves to be possessed by the living Word, cutting through our hearts? It comes with great price and cost but the promise of life eternal will always move us towards the truth, the wisdom, and the connectivity we truly desire and leave us fulfilled in this life and the life to come.