28th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Wisdom 7:7-11; Heb 4: 12-13; Mk 10:17-30.
In the news this week, maybe you heard about Facebook getting into a heap of moral trouble, at least, after revelations from a whistleblower to Congress that described the company’s business model as one that manipulates algorithms to make users more angry, upset, and – with teens – emotionally frail. Facebook makes its money by preying on strong reactions from clicks that trigger people; whether the content is hurtful or false, it doesn’t matter.
Then there was the revelation about the global elites and the global financial industry. These Pandora Papers leaked information about very rich people hiding billions of dollars in luxury properties and offshore banks.
We might think: I don’t work for Facebook, I don’t have money in offshore funds or luxury houses.
But there’s a thread between these over-the-top scandals and things we very well may be doing. Do you like to agitate at the office, around the house? Spread gossip, stir up workplace drama? Like to generate anger in people, prey on people’s vulnerabilities, don’t care if things are true or not? Well, Facebook might be interested in you.
Are you obsessed with controlling your things, your money? Stingy, not generous? Only looking out for number one with your assets? Maybe you only differ from the Pandora folks in the magnitude of your portfolio.
These scandals, and perhaps our low-level kinship with them, clash head-on with Jesus’ Gospel teaching today. It is very important to note that this is Jesus’ most extensive moral teaching here in the Gospel of Mark. His focus is not sexual morality, politics, worship – it’s about the priority we give to our possessions and wealth. Following Jesus does not mean some polite separation between keeping the commandments and then doing whatever we want with our things and our money. And following Jesus is certainly not about manipulating people or money to maximize our effects on people.
Following Jesus, at some important level, is about surrender, it’s about letting go, it’s about emptying ourselves. And this emptying has to show itself in our bank accounts and in our things. If not, we need to declare bankruptcy, moral bankruptcy, Gospel bankruptcy.
What’s wrong in our world today ought to help convince us what’s right in Jesus’ teaching. Hopefully, we can take a long, hard look at what discipleship with Jesus really means, especially if it leads us to see the contradictions and incompatibilities between the faith we profess with our words in church and the actions we take once we leave.