Reflection on Mark 10.28-31

Peter began to say to Jesus: ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you.’

In recent times the Church of England has had to face up to the financial reality of being ‘asset rich and cash poor’. The Church does have many assets, but they are not assets that can be realised in an acceptable or easy way. At the same time, the Church is having to face the same reality as many other organisations: how does it pay for its day-to-day running costs, including the provision of stipends for its clergy? These very worldly considerations have led many down the path of viewing their relationship with the Church in a transactional way, that is, they look at what they give in terms of what they receive. Today’s reading offers us an inkling that there is nothing new in this way of thinking!

Peter is struggling with Jesus’ teaching in respect of wealth. The rich man in yesterday’s reading was not welcomed into the fellowship of the disciples because he was not willing to relinquish his many possessions. Jesus then went on to say that: 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. This teaching must have shocked those who heard it, and it clearly gave rise to other thoughts in the mind of Peter. It is almost as though Peter is thinking out loud as we read: Look, we have left everything and followed you. Was he about to add something like: So what are we going to get out of our generosity of spirit? In modern business-speak, Peter seems to be musing upon the advantage of some sort of ‘service level agreement’ with Jesus. But, Jesus interrupted Peter and explained how Christian love and generosity works, and how it will demand that we put ourselves at the back of every queue in this world, because the reward of the faithful will come in the next world, as we rest in God’s nearer presence for eternity.

As we reflect upon the mission and ministry of the Church, and as we are tempted to put self-interest ahead of our calling to love and serve in Christ’s name, let us pray that we might join the disciples in following Jesus. Let us pray that we might do so with a generosity of heart and spirit that inspires others to join in the crusade to bring God’s kingdom into this world. Let us pray that we might join in the prayer of St Ignatius of Loyola: 

Lord, teach me to be generous; 
Teach me to serve you as you deserve; 
To give and not to count the cost; 
To fight and not to heed the wounds; 
To toil, and not to seek for rest; 
To labour, and not to ask for reward – 
except to know that I am doing your will.