The Gospel according to Matthew (19:23-30)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich
to enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Again I say to you,
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.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said,
“Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For men this is impossible,
but for God all things are possible.”
Then Peter said to him in reply,
“We have given up everything and followed you.
What will there be for us?”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you
that you who have followed me, in the new age,
when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory,
will yourselves sit on twelve thrones,
judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters
or father or mother or children or lands
for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more,
and will inherit eternal life.
But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
Opening Prayer: Jesus, thank You for calling me to be Your servant and disciple. May I let go of anything that keeps me from you, that I may serve You faithfully and well. Amen.
The image in today’s Gospel of the camel and the “eye of the needle” is quite enduring and also one of great debate! I did want to speak about that first, but then, I’d like to point us to the main point which is the reminder of God’s promise that nothing is impossible for Him. We can take that assurance when our lives don’t go the way we expect, or when obstacles seem to come up to prevent us from following Him as faithfully as we wish.
So, what about the “eye of the needle”? I had heard (I don’t recall now where) that this saying of Jesus referred to a gate in the city wall of Jerusalem. It was said to be a small and narrow gate, and the only way that a camel could possibly go through was to remove all its burdens, and for it to go through on its knees. It’s a great image. It shows how, if we want to be true followers of God, we have to remove all of our earthly burdens that distract us from serving Him, and then, enter before Him in humility, on our knees.
There is some question about whether or not there actually was such a gate or not. Another potential interpretation of this saying is that Jesus was talking about a literal needle, and comparing it to the size of the largest creature known to His listeners, the camel. Clearly, there was no way for the camel to ever get through that small space. It was such a ridiculous idea that a camel could make it that illustrates God’s remarkable power. Even though our human minds can’t imagine how, God makes the impossible into reality. That’s the main point I would like to emphasize in today’s Gospel.
Especially in our modern day when technology can seemingly do almost anything, we can almost convince ourselves that we can do anything on our own. What could God do that we ourselves cannot? The truth is that there is still so much that is beyond human intellect or understanding. Speaking for me, that is perfectly fine! I rely on the truth that the God I serve and worship is so much bigger than any of my problems or troubles.
I don’t have to understand the “how” of what it is that God does. I just have to trust that His plan is the right one, and that I should cooperate with that plan as much as I can. It is true, though, that God does not promise the path we take when we follow Him is easy. In many ways, it’s not! We see that echoed in Peter’s words, when he reminds Jesus of all that he and the other disciples gave up to follow Him. Notice that Jesus does not say that He will take care of everything and that the path will be trouble-free. No, He highlights the importance of perseverance, and the promise of our eternal reward for being His followers.
Our lives will doubtless have challenges and struggles. Let us remember that Jesus made that promise to us as well, that great eternal reward awaits us if we persist in the struggle and do our best to live a life as His disciple. And, let us also remember that to God “all things are possible”, and that He wants us to live a life of love, joy and peace as His child. Let us think of how we can share that good news with others in our lives and to do our best to live as a true child of God in all the activities of our lives.
Closing Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to live a life of joy and faith in You. Help me to know that You never leave me and instead continue to call me ever closer to You. May I have the grace to share that joy with everyone today and always. Amen.
Action for the Day: Take a few minutes of quiet today and reflect on all that God has done for you – big things and small things, and thank Him for those blessings.