February 17, 2023
Friday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today
Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order—Optional Memorial
“What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” Mark 8:36
This short and direct question is worth much meditation. In Mark’s Gospel, this line comes within the context of Jesus teaching about the requirements of being His disciple. And it comes after Jesus began to explicitly teach that He Himself would suffer and die as the Christ.
Think about this question above, starting with the first part of the question. “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world…” Do you want to gain the whole world? For most people, such a possibility is quite enticing. To “gain the whole world” is to gain everything this world has to offer. Imagine being offered unlimited wealth in this world. What if you were to win the largest jackpot any lottery ever offered and more? What if you were able to have beautiful mansions around the world, your own private jet, every modern convenience, the most expensive of cars, and the ability to do whatever you wanted for the rest of your life? Is this enticing? Certainly it is on a superficial level. But it is also a very deceptive enticement, because all of this could not make you any happier or more fulfilled than you already are.
The second part of this question is also easy to address. Would you want to forfeit your life? Certainly not. So Jesus offers two contrasting statements in one sentence. Most people would want to gain the whole world but would never want to forfeit their lives. Jesus sets up this contrast as a way of telling us very clearly that we cannot desire one without also choosing the other. In other words, if your heart’s desire is for the riches of this world, then you do indeed forfeit your very life to the extent that you give into that desire. On the contrary, if you choose the salvation of your soul, then you must forfeit the desire for the riches and enticements of this world. You cannot desire and choose both.
With that said, there might be a very rare soul who has many things in this world but has no attachment to them at all. They live completely detached from the things of this world, finding true satisfaction only in God and His holy will, becoming indifferent to any material things they have. Of course, this is a very difficult interior disposition for one to arrive at when they have accumulated much wealth.
Alternately, there are those in this world who have very little. They are truly poor in the literal sense. However, they spend their days dreaming about riches and covet all that they do not have. Sadly, this poor soul is, in fact, just as materially attached as the one who has made riches the goal and focus of life. And that interior attachment will do great spiritual damage.
Reflect, today, upon this question of Jesus: “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” Use that question as a source of prayer, meditation and self-examination. Try to be honest about your desires. If you find that you spend much time daydreaming about riches, then pay particular attention to this question. Life in its fullness can never be obtained through those desires or the fulfillment of those desires. God and God alone fulfills. Seek God above all else and you will find that nothing this world has to offer comes close to the riches of the Kingdom of God.
Lord, You and You alone are the source of fulfillment in life. Please purify my desires so that I ultimately desire only You and Your holy will. Free me from every deception and false enticement in life so that I will find satisfaction only in You. Jesus, I trust in You.
Scripture Meditations for Lent
Saint of the Day – Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order
Featured image above: Day of Judgement, via flickr