In yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus showed us the dangers of riches and the difficulty involved in not becoming attached to wealth. Today’s Gospel further cautions us against inventing an easy temporal explanation for how things will be. For Peter and the Apostles who “gave up everything to follow Christ,” Christ tells them that they will receive even more back already in this life. How absurdly paradoxical! Giving up everything then receiving one hundredfold back. Jesus doesn’t say, “become poor so that you can remain poor.” It isn’t that simple. Nor does He say, “Give up your material possessions and wealth so that you will have a spiritual one instead.” Here Jesus says, “Whoever gives up possessions in this life will receive one hundredfold in this life and eternal life in the next.” You almost want to call the rich young man back and tell him, “Hey! If you give it all up you will receive it all back one hundredfold!” Since the point is not about whether or not we have wealth (though having it is more difficult than not) it is better for those who have given all to follow Christ to learn how to use wealth well when it returns a hundredfold. This is what stewardship is all about: we must begin to see everything we have, all our resources and relationships, as gifts from God to be used according to His good will and pleasure as opposed to our own selfish desires.
This way of receiving after renouncing comes with something unexpected too: persecutions. What exactly is meant here by persecutions? This is the Markan language of suffering. In every stage in the spiritual life, there is a temptation to “set up three tents.” The ways that God cares for us now that we have become poor to follow Him could become a new form of worldliness. There is no moment in the Christian life on earth when we “arrive.” As deep as the peace and joy of the Gospel penetrates into our hearts, suffering and persecution await at the border. Our detachment from wealth allows us, in the midst of these sufferings and persecutions, to cling to what is essential. Jesus proposes the way of poverty, in fact, to increase our ability to rejoice already in this world in our heavenly inheritance – even in the face of persecutions and suffering.
DIDYMUS THE BLIND:
Christ comes in two ways. One is through the intellect, by which God is received as a divine Word. The other is through the senses, by which he appears as a historical person coming out of the womb of Mary. But the first way is more purely divine than the second, which was made necessary by the sinful behavior of mankind. For God comes to all the saints through the intellect and by his word, whether they lived before or after the coming of Christ, sanctifying each one according to his deeds. Those who lived before the coming of Christ were less informed, not because of their wickedness but because of God’s dispensation of time. Therefore it is said that the prophets examined how and at what time the salvation of their souls would be fulfilled by the sufferings of Christ and his subsequent glory. They preached these things, knowing that they were not going to be revealed directly to them but would appear at some future time. Therefore it is wrong to say that their sanctification was somehow inferior to ours.1
THEODORET OF CYR:
For how could Abraham be inferior to someone who lived after the coming of Christ, when he saw the day of the Lord and that everyone who would be made perfect by the Lord would depart into his bosom? How could Moses and Elijah be inferior, when they appeared with the Lord at his transfiguration, even though they did not see him in the flesh? Peter insists that it is not necessary to have seen Jesus in the flesh, for there were many unbelievers who did so, some of whom were bold enough to transgress the old covenant. And this has been said for the benefit of those who, even if they have not seen or heard what the Lord said in the flesh, nevertheless have a divinely inspired love for those things. If someone receives the salvation sought by the prophets, it is that which they all longed for at the end of time. For everything else was created by him, but this was not made by anyone. It was not possible for the holy angels or for any of the blessed rational creatures to partake of it beforehand, though they all longed to glimpse the things which would be revealed in the last days.2
HILARY OF ARLES:
The angels long to look into these things because of the greatness of their love. They meditate on the Spirit and go on doing so forever, because love never comes to an end.3
To be conformed to the things of this world means to be surrounded by them. Even today there are some weak-willed people who say that when they are in Rome, they have to do as the Romans do. But whether they do this knowingly or in ignorance, the message here is clear. We are to abandon this world and be conformed to the One who alone is truly holy.4
Those who seek to imitate the Holy God must be holy themselves.5
This is exactly what Jesus meant when he said: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”6
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA:
Let this teach the prosperous that they are not to neglect their own salvation, as if they had been already foredoomed, nor, on the other hand, to cast wealth into the sea, or condemn it as a traitor and an enemy to life, but learn in what way and how to use wealth and obtain life.7
Such, O my soul, are the miseries that attend on riches. They are gained with toil and kept with fear. They are enjoyed with danger and lost with grief. It is hard to be saved if we have them; and impossible if we love them; and scarcely can we have them, but we shall love them inordinately. Teach us, O Lord, this difficult lesson: to manage conscientiously the goods we possess, and not covetously desire more than you give to us.8
CAESARIUS OF ARLES:
Rich and poor, listen to Christ: I am speaking to God’s people. Most of you are poor, but you too must listen carefully to understand. And you had best listen even more intently if you glory in your poverty. Beware of pride, lest the humble rich surpass you. Beware of wickedness, lest the pious rich confound you. Beware of drunkenness, lest the sober excel you.9
SALVIAN THE PRESBYTER:
Note what kind of riches it is that God loves. Note what wealth does he demand that we should store up for children. Note what possessions he especially orders us to guard: faith, fear of God, modesty, holiness, and discipline. Nothing earthly, nothing base, nothing perishable or transitory.10
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA:
Note that the God of peace, who exhorts us to love our enemies, does not arbitrarily require us literally to hate or abandon those dearest to us. But if we are to love our enemies, it must be in accordance with right reason that, by analogy we should also love our nearest relatives.… But insofar as one’s father, or son, or brother, becomes for you a hindrance to faith or an impediment to godly life, one should then not collude with that temptation. Attend to the spiritual, rather than the fleshly, meaning of the command.11
Instead of but one he will begin to have so many fathers and brothers bound to him by a still more fervent and admirable affection. That this is so you can prove by your own experience, since you have each left but one father and mother and home, and as you have done so you have gained without any effort or care countless fathers and mothers and brothers, as well as houses and lands and most faithful servants, in any part of the world to which you go, who receive you as their own family, and welcome, and respect, and take care of you with the utmost attention.12
- Commentary on 1 Peter.
- CATENA. Bray, G. (Ed.). (2000). James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (p. 75). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- INTRODUCTORY COMMENTARY ON 1 PETER. Bray, G. (Ed.). (2000). James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (p. 75). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMENTARY ON 1 PETER. Bray, G. (Ed.). (2000). James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (p. 77). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- CATENA. Bray, G. (Ed.). (2000). James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (p. 78). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- ON 1 PETER. Bray, G. (Ed.). (2000). James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (p. 78). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- SALVATION OF THE RICH MAN 27. Oden, T. C., & Hall, C. A. (Eds.). (1998). Mark (Revised) (p. 137). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- LETTER 203. Oden, T. C., & Hall, C. A. (Eds.). (1998). Mark (Revised) (p. 137). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- SERMONS 153.2. Oden, T. C., & Hall, C. A. (Eds.). (1998). Mark (Revised) (p. 138). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- THE FOUR BOOKS OF TIMOTHY TO THE CHURCH 1.4. Oden, T. C., & Hall, C. A. (Eds.). (1998). Mark (Revised) (p. 138). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- SALVATION OF THE RICH MAN 22. Oden, T. C., & Hall, C. A. (Eds.). (1998). Mark (Revised) (p. 139). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- CONFERENCES 3.24.26. Oden, T. C., & Hall, C. A. (Eds.). (1998). Mark (Revised) (p. 139). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.