To this Seeds of Hope, I have attached Mission Prayerline, a short mission story and prayer intention. Please page down to see it.
Scripture Reading for Today: Mark 10:17-30 (read it here)
The man in today’s Gospel is rich, young, and intelligent.
And today he has a genuine question. For someone of his social position to seek the counsel of a simple country carpenter must have been awkward.
But this is no standard question. “Good teacher,” he asks, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus’ answer is intended to make anyone squirm, but the young man grins and quickly replies: Murder? Of course not. Adultery? Well, nothing too indecent. Stealing? Well, a little cheating on taxes, but all justifiable. False testimony? You know, the competition is tough. Honor your father and mother? Sure, I see them on holidays. Love your neighbor as yourself? Of course, for Thanksgiving and Christmas I send a couple of turkeys to the homeless shelter.
The Ten Commandments? I have kept all of them since I was a kid. Or is there any other commandment I forget to fulfill?
Right away, Jesus is smitten with such candor and grace; and today’s gospel notes, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.”
However, Jesus does not pat him on the head and does not give him a high-five or thumbs up.
Jesus gets to the point and tells him: Actually, there is an eleventh commandment—perhaps the most difficult: Don’t allow your possessions to possess you. You are stuck with too much stuff; let go of all that gets in the way of seeing that more is not more, but less is more.
It is a hard prescription for a rich man; it is an invitation to become smaller and more agile by reducing his accounts on earth and increasing the one in heaven, so that his treasure draws interest inside the tiny gate of heaven instead of keeping him out of it.
In other words, Jesus challenges him to become a new creature defined in a new way, and to give up all the words that have described him up to now—prosperous, personable, cultured, responsible, educated, powerful, observant—in order to be defined with one radically different word—free: free from the worship and attachment to precarious and temporary wealth.
And this man, who has tried so hard to follow all the rules he had been taught, is stunned, and walks away very unhappy, because he cannot not bring himself to believe that all he has accumulated during his short life does not guarantee true happiness and security.
He had hoped that following the rules was sufficient, but Jesus tells him that much more is necessary.
The disciples are also bothered by this, because they share the still common view that people who have money are better than poor people. So, they are completely dumbfounded when Jesus went on saying that it is harder for a rich person to get into heaven than it is to walk on water, or turn water into wine, or feed 5000 people, because dealing with our worship of money is harder than overcoming all other forms of sickness and death.
In short, the young man of today’s Gospel is not free to take the hand of Jesus and follow him, because his hands are too full of things, and his heart is intoxicated with the things that do not last forever.
But the problem of making riches the priority of our life is not just a problem for Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and other very rich people of the world, but it is also a problem for us.
Frankly, we all have a lot, and we like what we have got. And we don’t have to be a millionaire to make material possessions the be-all and end-all of our existence.
And today, Jesus presents each of us—no matter where we stand on the economic ladder—with a simple question: Do we want to be like those who lose our eternal salvation with our fist firmly holding on a bit of gold; or do we want to be like those whose priorities are so rearranged that their possessions are not their most important concern anymore?
Today’s Gospel also asks us whether we are really willing to share what we have with those who have less than we do.
Let us be very clear about this. Jesus is not saying that money and possessions are bad, or that we must have nothing in the bank and nothing in our pockets, or sleep under a bridge to live a good life and go to heaven.
What Jesus is saying is that God’s glory and the good of others should always take first place; and that until we start using our riches for God and others, we will continue to be burdened rather than blessed.
Christ left behind the glory and power of divinity and came to us in the poverty of human flesh; and in the Eucharist he gives us his Body and Blood in the poverty of simple gifts of bread and wine.
For the sake of greater love, growth, and witness, let us live our lives free of the things that consume our mind, heart, and soul.
Following the example of Mary, let us put first and foremost the love of God and the care and love of others—both the lovable and the not-so-lovable, and we will not walk away sad because in God we trust.
Nuns Battle Leprosy, TB, and Social Stigma in Bangladesh
Monjur Sheikh began developing infections from small rashes on his skin in 1975, coupled with aches and fever.
This prompted him to visit a series of doctors, but each treatment they prescribed only made his condition worse, causing him to panic and ultimately give up hope as he watched his appearance radically deteriorate.
Soon he realized he had leprosy, but he did not know what to do or where to go.
After years of suffering, Monjur Sheikh, the former entrepreneur who used to earn a living selling dried and sweetened tobacco, heard about a hospital being run by nuns in Daspara, a village in the neighboring Khulna district.
In 1986, after enduring a decade of agony and humiliation, he wound up at Damian House, the newly opened medical center set up by the Missionary Sisters of Mary Immaculate to cater to poor patients in southern Bangladesh.
He remembers the day he first met Sister Rosa as she began treating him with great kindness and concern.
Not only did Sr. Rosa assist with his skin condition, but she also taught him to fight against prejudice and the negative social stigmas attached to leprosy.
Monjur Sheikh recalls, “Even my relatives shunned me as they feared they might get infected. People used to insult me and say a lot of bad things. But the nuns were different. They not only treated me with dignity, but they also tried to persuade younger people not to feel threatened by leprosy patients and not to ostracize them.”
Maria Begum, a 25-year-old mother of one, also visits Damian House regularly to receive treatment for tuberculosis (TB).
She tells her story: “About a year ago I had a serious coughing problem. I came here to see the nuns and found I had TB. I have been taking the medication ever since, and now I feel much better.”
In addition to offering free check-ups and medicine, the nuns support her by supplying baby food, rice, lentils and sugar every month.
“Before I came here, I would visit local doctors and had to fork out a lot of money, but nothing worked. Here, I never spend a penny. Yet now I enjoy good health and my family is taken care of—thanks to the nuns,” she said.
Today, leprosy (also known as Hansen’s Disease) is still shattering thousands of lives worldwide, especially in Asia and Africa. Although leprosy is treatable, people who live with this disease are commonly shunned by society and are driven to seclusion.
Left unattended, leprosy will ravage the body of its victim, eventually leading to disfigurement and even blindness.
With appropriate care and medication, this disease can be stopped in its tracks. With as little as one week of treatment, leprosy patients are no longer contagious.
But beyond physical healing, many patients need emotional healing from the trauma and rejection they experience.
Those who have lost the use of their hands and feet have no way to provide for themselves, yet they are often abandoned by society. Other leprosy patients may have few physical limitations, but the stigma of the disease can hinder their likelihood of being hired. Many also have children to care for and may often resort to begging to find food.
Almighty God and Father, we pray for those living with disability because of leprosy. Help them to find both acceptance in their society, and aid in the day-to-day chores of life that can prove so difficult for them. Help them to know of your love and acceptance through the witness of their neighbors and care givers.
We pray for those with leprosy whose families and community have rejected them. Help them to know acceptance in their lives.
We pray that doctors, nurses, social workers, and all those who out of love and sacrifice care for the sick, will stay in good health, so they can continue to serve you and administer your love and grace to leprosy patients and those in slums.
Remove all sickness and suffering from your people and teach us to value life and health as gifts from you. Give us your peace, and fill our hearts with unflinching faith in your protection, hope in your help, and love for you and our neighbor. Amen.
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Let us make this a blessed day.
Keep Jesus in your mind and heart and share him with all you meet.
Fr. Michael Brizio, IMC
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