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WHAT OUR NEW BIRTH MEANS

Father Francis's picture
Eighth Week of Ordinary Time

1 Pet. 1:3-9 & Mk. 10:17-27

One of the main purposes of the first letter of Saint Peter, which we begin reading today, is to indicate the importance of Baptism, a new birth, in the life of a Christian.

This beautiful reading is positive and uplifting in tone. It reflects the happiness of proud parents as they announce the birth of a child, a new life they have brought into the world. Baptism, too, is the begetting of new life, the life of faith, which leads to an imperishable inheritance. This life is a gift from God.

In a classic understatement St Peter calmly writes, "This is a cause of great joy for you.” Rejoice indeed! It has been said that the birth of a child is a sign that God has not given up on the human race. We can also say that a Baptism, our own included, is a sign that we must not give up on God. We may have to suffer the distress of many trials. In fact Jesus in the Gospel calls us to supreme detachment, to help us strengthen our faith. Now that we have become God's children we can have complete confidence that no matter what befalls us we enjoy His fatherly love.

The Gospel is telling us not to be attached to wealth. A camel is a large animal with a hump on its back. The picture of such an animal attempting to pass through the eye of a needle, a small gap in a rock formation through which travellers could pass only with difficulty, needs little elaboration. It is stressing the point that some people bring with them obstacles which make it impossible for them to enter into kingdom of God.

When Jesus spoke to the man in the Gospel, He singled out his wealth as his obstacle. This surprised the Apostles because with their Jewish background they believed that wealth and prosperity were a sign of God's approval. Wealth in itself is not a problem; attachment to it is the problem. His wealth was the reason why the man walked away from Jesus; he could not accept the challenge of detachment even with Jesus' help.

We should not limit our view by concentrating on the matter of money. The real point is that any obstacle which prevents us from walking with Jesus must be given up for our own eternal good. Simply being poor is no guarantee of getting into Heaven, because a poor person may covet a neighbour's goods as a rich one might.

An attachment interfering with our advance to the kingdom may be a person, an object or even a way of behaving. Each person must examine his or her own life to determine the obstacle. Even small attachments should not be overlooked since Jesus calls us to constant progress in our journey towards His kingdom.

We may be tempted to ask, like the Apostles, who then can be saved? None of us can enter the kingdom by our own efforts. Only God can achieve that for us. When we have tried our best to remove whatever is hindering His work of salvation, we can only place ourselves in His loving hands. What we cannot do for ourselves God can do for us. He is the great doer of the impossible!

Lord Jesus, with Your help may we remove all obstacles which hinder us from coming to You.

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