“How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God!” (Mk. 10:23)

The Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B
14th October 2018

175 years ago, there occurred a most strange incident that only goes to prove that God works in mysterious ways his plans to fulfil.

A ten-year-old boy was wandering in a field when he unknowingly strayed into a marshy pond. Soon he found himself stuck and unable to move. The more he tried to extricate himself, the deeper he began to sink. Something had to be urgently done, or else the boy could tragically disappear. In desperation, he called for help. A poor farmer, living nearby, heard the cries of the boy in distress, and promptly responded.

Seeing the boy in trouble, the farmer realised that should he go in, he too would be trouble and that could result in two tragic deaths. So, he rushed back and brought with him the longest shovel he could find. Then he got in as close as possible to the boy and extended the handle of the shovel. “Hold on to the handle, son, and don’t let go. Don’t be afraid! I will pull you safely out of this marsh.” And that is just what the little boy did – he held on for dear life. On emerging, he first apologised to the farmer and then sincerely thanked him before he ran home both relieved and inexpressibly happy.

The next day, a royal coach came by and stopped right in front of the poor home of the farmer. The farmer and his little son were just astounded – they just couldn’t believe their eyes. Out stepped a rich nobleman with a little boy, obviously his son. “Sir,” said the nobleman, “I am the father of the little boy you rescued yesterday. I am here to thank you most sincerely.” The farmer was touched and said: “I have a ten-year-old son as well, and that is just what I would have done if he was bogged down in that marsh. It was my duty.”

As the farmer refused to accept any money, the nobleman said, “Sir, I have a proposition. My son goes to a very prestigious school. With your approval, I would like to have your son to live with me and be educated there as well. And I shall willingly bear all the expenses.” The farmer was astounded, and literally stood there as though he was transfixed to the ground. That was his one-time dream, but it was far beyond his means. Very humbly he said, “I thank you, Sir, and shall gladly accept your offer.”

Providentially, the farmer’s son proved to be intelligent, enterprising and ambitious. Both he and the nobleman’s son literally bounded from success to success. On graduating, the farmer’s son expressed his desire to pursue a career in medicine, while the nobleman’s son opted for a degree in politics. Most willingly the nobleman encouraged both and, once again, willingly agreed to bear all the expenses.

And that was the beginning of the outstanding success of both scholars. The farmer’s son went on to become a physician, a microbiologist and a pharmacologist. He is best known for his discovery of Penicillin, which has been so marvellously effective in combating serious infections and saving countless lives. For this he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in Medicine. His name: Sir Alexander Fleming!

The nobleman’s son also went on to become a remarkable success as a British Politician, an army officer, a writer and key figure in Britain’s historic success in the Second World War. His name: Sir Winston Churchill. The ways of God are indeed mysterious, but always marvellous!

Money is indeed a good servant, but a bad master. Thanks to the generosity of that admirable nobleman, the entire world has benefited from the extraordinary wisdom, the singular enterprise, the unrelenting patience, and the dogged determination of two outstanding figures. The nobleman had the means and, when he saw the need, he promptly and unhesitatingly responded, thereby enabling two ingenious young men make an outstanding contribution to the people of their time and to generations to follow. Truly has it been said: “What we are is God’s gift to us; what we become is out gift to God.” By that reckoning, Sir Alexander Fleming and Sir Winston Churchill were God’s best gifts to the entire world. Such are the mysterious and marvellous ways of our Triune God!

One author has so rightly said: “God deliberately fashioned the human hand with five fingers.” This means that God would not like us to selfishly hold on to our wealth, but let it pass through our fingers and to those in genuine need. Said Jesus in no uncertain terms: “As long as you did it to one of these the least of my brothers or sisters, you did it to me. Enter into the joys of heaven that were prepared for you from the beginning of time.” In a word, our reward is absolutely guaranteed, when we thoughtfully and generously share our personal wealth with the needy and the deserving. As we read in the book of Proverbs: “When you give to the poor, it is like lending to the Lord.” (19:17).