Oh, the good life full of fun, seems to be the ideal

Tom Bartolomeo
28th Sunday Ordinary B 2012
Wisdom 7: 7-11; Psalm 90;
Hebrews 4: 12-13; Mark 10: 17-30
Reproduced with Permission

Oh, the good life.
Oh, the good life
Full of fun, seems to be the ideal
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
It's the good life
To be free, and explore the unknown
Like the heartaches
When you learn you must face them alone
Please remember
I still want you
And in case, you wonder why...
Well, just wake up
Kiss the good life goodbye...

An unexpected beginning for a homily, I know, but these lyrics from a popular song years ago tell an important story about "the good life": how much we can be deceived and deceive ourselves about "the good life", about the "good." The melody and the lyrics do not correspond. We could happily hum along "Mmm, the good life" and miss the pain in the lyrics, "Lets you hide all the sadness you feel." The good life, the good - is any word more confused or abused?

"Why do you call me good?", Jesus asked. "No one is good but God alone." Not even Jesus on his own? Any of us? Me? You, you and you? For many "the good life" is what they make of it. No consideration for the source of goodness. It is all irrelevant. Rarely, if ever, does it work when any one of us solely decides what is good like the break-up of a failed romance in the song, "like the heartaches . . . you learn you must [now] face alone . . . you wake up [and] kiss the good life goodbye." Everyone here including myself has had that experience in one way or the other. Going it alone.

How well Jesus understood this. Imagine the disappointment of that man who so confidently told Jesus, "Teacher, all these things [the commandments] I have observed from my youth" and his shock hearing Jesus' reply, "You are lacking . . . one thing" your detachment from your possessions.

The man speaks with God. God answers, and he is disappointed. And the Beatitudes of God, Blessed are the poor in spirit, Blessed are the meek and the sorrowful, he essentially rejects them as well. Give it to the poor, Jesus told him, and be liberated from this world, more for your own sake than the poor who we "will always have with us." It is one thing to nominally observe' the commandments, another to love them. Had the man not left when he did Jesus could have recited for him Psalm 119.

I have no love for half-hearted men:
my love is for your law.
You are my shelter, my shield;
I hope in your word.

It wasn't merely the man's possessions which endangered his salvation but his attachment to them, a danger not limited to the wealthy but to all who obsess over possessions, money or power, their abundance or lack of it. It applies equally to the poor who covet what they can not have and buy lottery tickets and dream their lives away.

It is frightening how some people so readily delude themselves in believing they are good while ignoring the Apostle Paul's entreaty to "work out" your "salvation with fear and trembling", Philippians 2, 6. In last Thursday's presidential debate Vice President Biden claimed (and I am quoting him) "I've been a practicing Catholic my whole life . . . I accept my Church's position on abortion as a de fide doctrine. Life begins at conception. I accept that position in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians, and Muslims and Jews. I do not believe that we have the right to tell other people, women they cannot control their body. It's a decision between them and their doctor in my view, and the Supreme Court. And I'm not going to interfere with that.

Qualify, please, the word "devout" Christians, Muslims and Jews. I am assuming then there are Christians, Muslims and Jews who are not devout. Distinguish. "A practicing Catholic" practicing what? The politics of self-interest contradicting what he had affirmed earlier that "life begins at conception." When abortion is suddenly declared morally "Good" by anyone, unnamed "other people, Christians, Muslims, Jews, women and their doctors and the Supreme Court" where is God in their calculation, in their world and in their hearts, the Creator of heaven and earth, the author of life and the child in the womb? Yet the Vice President of the United States, says he is a "practicing Catholic . . . accepts my Church's position on abortion . . . [and] declares, "I am not going to interfere with that" without even a hint of disapproval from the office he holds. He is not a practicing Catholic. He is obsessed by the power he possesses leading from behind.

We return to Jesus' question, "Why do you call me good? Why?