Jesus and Wealth

Jon Shematek Reflection, Visio Divina 1 Comment

Transcript of the post’s recording:

Welcome back to If Necessary Use Words! This is a place for praying with images. I’m Jon Shematek, a Deacon in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.

Every Monday, we’ll look at a portion of the Gospel assigned for the upcoming Sunday, and reflect together using a form of Visio Divina, in which we combine scriptural text, images and reflection. I hope this will engage you in thought, conversation or next Sunday’s sermon.

Today we explore the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 10: 17-22, which is part of the text assigned for Proper 23 Year B, the Sunday closest to October 12th.

First Listen or Read Carefully:

“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.”


Now Look: at this image of the so-called Treasury or Al-Khazneh, located in Petra, Jordan. Notice the impressive façade of this massive structure, carved into red sandstone. Observe the sculptural details, some fading after centuries of exposure to the elements and human beings. This building’s purpose, with an unexpectedly small interior, is unknown, but may have been a royal tomb…or perhaps even a hiding-place for riches, as some legends say. There can be no doubt that whoever built this place must have been powerful and wealthy. What do you see as you look more deeply into this structure?


[Time for Your Personal Reflection]


Now Reflect: The man who met Jesus in today’s Gospel story had everything. Many possessions, according to the narrative. Education. Strict religious observance. Yet he knew something was missing, something meaningful, missing from within the core of his being. So he sought out the Teacher, and asked what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Eternal life: the one thing he does not possess, yet yearns for so sincerely. He assured Jesus that he kept all the commandments. Quite an accomplishment. I wonder how many people, I wonder if you or I, could make that same claim? Jesus then looked him in the eye, profoundly. Whatever he saw in him caused Jesus to love the well-intentioned rich man. Then he told him the one thing that he must do. Sell what he owned, give everything away to the poor, and follow. The man went away grieving, and likely Jesus was also saddened by the encounter. In thinking about this episode, what statement about wealth is Jesus making? Does he really expect the followers of the Jesus Movement to give away all their possessions? Or does he ask something else of us?


[Time for Your Personal Reflection]


Now Act: Identify some strong attachment you have to something you possess. I’m not talking about an emotional attachment for something you treasure for “sentimental” reasons, but something that is not truly necessary for your life. When you make your next purchase of such an item, ask yourself why you are doing so, ask yourself if you really need yet one more of these, or the most updated version. Consider instead using that amount of money you would have spent on that item for some good cause, giving it away. Give it away. What is your reaction to that suggestion: is it like the rich man’s? Or are you ready to catch a glimpse of the Kingdom of God…right here on earth?


[Time for Your Personal Reflection]


This is Jon Shematek. Thanks so much for participating in If Necessary Use Words. A place for praying with images. Please leave a comment on this post with any personal insights, reflections, or concerns, so that others may benefit from your thoughts.

[Song: “Ambient Sonata” / Album: Ambient Sonata  / Artist: Dee Yan-Key]


[Image: “Al-kazneh”, Petra, Jordan  Photographer: Jon Shematek]


Comments 1

  1. Just coming back from a 4 day silent retreat and listening to the Spirit speak in many different voices through nature, I want to be conscious of how what I do affects all creatures and creation around me. What attachments are causing me to harm creation? One of the learnings on this weekend is that at even a deeper level I am convinced that we are all one. I want to include and embrace the darkness and shadow, the richness and poverty, the beauty and ugly of my life and all creation. What must I let go to embrace all? I think that is what Jesus was asking the young man.

What do you think?