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28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Ages 6-9): Empty Hands

(Adults, you could read the first paragraph of the reflection to the child, then read the Gospel, and then continue with the reflection.)

In the Gospel for this Sunday, a man wants to know something. He comes to Jesus with his question. Notice how he comes:

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him

The man runs and he kneels. Why would someone run to Jesus? What does this tell us about this man? How important is his question to him?

Why would someone kneel before Jesus? Kneeling tells us something about the man, too. He knows something about Jesus. How important does he feel Jesus is? How special?

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

The man asks,

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.

When the man asks his question, Jesus seems to pick apart his words. Why is Jesus fussing about the word "good"? Only God is good, Jesus tells the man. From God comes all goodness, including eternal life. Jesus wants the man to think about his words. The man has chosen to call Jesus "good"; he must know something about Jesus. Jesus might want the man to remember this when he gives him the answer to his question.

First Jesus reminds the man of God's law, the ten commandments, but the man already knows he does not murder or steal or lie. He knows he has good relationships with people. He suspects, though, that there is more to the answer to his question.

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.

Jesus looks at him and loves him. The man is seen and known. What a gift!

Jesus promises him treasure in heaven; he invites the man to be with him. What a gift!

Between these gifts, Jesus tells the man the one thing he did not want to hear.

When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

This man has many things. He wants eternal life, but he also wants his things. What will he choose? Which will he decide is best?

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words.

Why is it hard for people with wealth to enter the Kingdom of God? The disciples find this confusing. They must think, but people with wealth can do so much good!

But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!

When Jesus repeats his words, he calls the disciples, "Children." Why? Are they not all grown-up? We remember Jesus' words last Sunday. Children receive the Kingdom of God. Children do not have wealth of their own. All that they have has been given to them. They have hands that are free of wealth and possessions. With empty hands, they receive the Kingdom of God.

Then Jesus says something that sounds ridiculous:

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?”

It is ridiculous. There is no way that a camel can go through a needle!

Poor rich people. If a camel cannot get through a needle, how can they ever hope to enter the Kingdom of God? The disciples are worried. It is impossible.

Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

Mortals are humans. Mortals are us. It is too difficult for any of us to enter the Kingdom of God all on our own. Impossible, actually—because entering the Kingdom is not a job for humans. It is God's work. Entering the Kingdom is a gift from God.

Jesus keeps reminding the disciples about this, doesn't he? Everything is gift. Will the man with the question come to understand this? All his possessions must seem very good. He can do a lot of good with his wealth. But goodness, we remember, comes from God. If it comes from God, it rightly belongs to God. Everything we have we can offer to God. God will know what to do with it. God will show us.

When we offer everything for God to use, our hands are empty again. We can receive the Kingdom. So we open our hands wide and pray:

Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

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