At the suggestion of a number of people over the years, I decided to write a book about my life. They have said they especially like my stories.
My life is about two persons: one who lived primarily by worldly wisdom, and one caught up in the wisdom of God.
The turning point was when I realized, at the age of 24, that I have a vocation to be a priest – a Jesuit priest.
The wisdom of God is the main theme in the readings today. We are instructed that God’s wisdom is of inestimable value. It is the path to life. It is the Light that illumines that path. It is the Holy Spirit.
I received an inkling of the wisdom of God one day at the food cannery where I was working as a salesman before I joined the Jesuits. I was outside on the cannery property looking at some of our packaged products when the following words from St. Mark’s gospel came to me: “What does it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world yet lose his soul?” I didn’t realize it at the time but later I could see that God was trying to get my attention.
In the Jesuit Novitiate I found Francis Thompson’s marvelous poem, “The Hound of Heaven.” The Hound is God who is chasing after us until we are caught. Eventually, I was caught!
The wealthy man in today’s Gospel was seeking true wisdom. He asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus’ response proved too much for him: “Go sell what you have and
give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven.” We are told the man walked away sad for he had many possessions.
Twenty years after I had let go of everything and joined the Jesuit Order, I heard this invitation again. Here is how it came about.
I spent the summer before in Tijuana, Mexico, at Casa de los Pobres (House of the Poor), a multi-service program. This was my first time living and working among Mexican people. Everyone I met was so friendly and welcoming that, basically, I fell in love with the people. When I returned to the U.S. and the Jesuit community in Berkeley where I had lived for over ten years, the idea of moving to San Diego to work part-time in Tijuana came into my mind.
I hesitated at the thought of doing this because it would mean leaving a very supportive and large Jesuit community, good friends, my family – some of whom lived in the Bay Area, and the beauty of the area. When I thought of Jesus’ words, “Go sellwhat you have,” these were what I had (notice, not material possessions this time). When I thought of “and give to the poor” it was very clear: my time and my love. I asked God for the grace to let go. Received it. Asked my religious superior for permission to move which he gave and moved.
Have you heard this message in your own life? Have you had to give up someone/something/someplace that was special to you in order to follow Jesus more closely?
In the Gospel, Jesus also speaks of what is known as the “hundred-fold.” If we are willing to let go of something
precious we will receive “a hundred times more.” In the last section of Francis Thompson’s poem (mentioned earlier) this reality becomes clear: “All which I took from thee I did but take not for thy harms, but just that thou might’st seek it in My arms. All which thy child’s mistake fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home.”
This has been my experience. Every time I have let go of a place and all its blessings; I have received even more in the new location.
Let us pray.
We ask You, Lord, to give us
Wisdom of heart.
May Your gracious love
give us the insight to
know what we need to let go of
to follow You more closely.
And give us the courage to do so.
Wisdom 7:7-11 Psalm 90:12-13 Mark 10:17-30
Fr. Max Oliva, S.J.
October 10, 2021