“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.” ~ Mark 10:24
In today’s 1st Reading (Sirach 17:20-24) our author speaks words of consolation to the hopeless and repentant, urging prayer and the loving pursuit of God’s truth as the remedy. His is a message of hope, a hope rooted in God’s mercy. In a nod to the Prodigal Son discourse, the passage concludes by specifically reinforcing God’s mercy and forgiveness for those who return to him, an important reminder to fallen away Catholics or those who for whatever reason believe themselves to be unworthy of God’s love; no sin is too big and no one too insignificant or undeserving of our immeasurably generous God and the love he offers to all his children, all the time.
In today’s Gospel (Mark 10:17-27) we encounter the wealthy man who, to his surprise and utter disappointment, is told that he “is lacking in one thing.”
“Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” Jesus instructs him, but he is unable to do so. Fact is, we would all be unable to do so. Just as we would all be unable to remain faithful in our marriages. Or to love our neighbor as ourselves. Or to forgive those who have sinned against us. If it weren’t for one thing, that one thing that changes all other things: God’s grace.
“For men it is impossible,” Jesus tells the disciples on hand, who upon hearing that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter God’s Kingdom, are suddenly astonished, bewildered, and perhaps even beginning to encroach upon that hopelessness that Sirach warns us to be on guard against in our 1st Reading. “But not for God” Jesus concludes. “All things are possible for God.”
It is God’s grace and God’s grace alone that widens the eye of the needle. Not the false sense of power and control that earthly wealth dupes us into thinking we rightly possess. The spiritual life, when lived out fully and deeply, calls for us to give our life away, the exact opposite of self-serving accumulation.
The truth is, the more we leave behind for Jesus, the easier it will be to follow him. It takes faith to believe that, especially in the wake of the vast consumerism we see all around us. But if we can surrender those things that captivate us, Jesus‘ reward will be beyond measure.
The following prayer was written by Saint Augustine, and he would recite it regularly in order to aid him in his detachment from them material things of this Earth.
“Lord Jesus, help me to know You.
Let me desire nothing save only You.
Let me hate myself and love You.
Let me do everything for the sake of You.
Let me humble myself and exalt You.
Let me think of nothing except You.
Let me die to myself and live in You.
Let me accept whatever happens as from You.
Let me banish self and follow You, and ever desire to follow You.
Let me fly from myself and take refuge in You,
That I may deserve to be defended by You.
Let me distrust myself and put my trust in You
Let me be willing to obey for the sake of You.
Let me cling to nothing save only to You,
And let me be poor because of You.
Look upon me, that I may love You.
Call me that I may see You,
And for ever enjoy You.” ~ Amen.