Jakarta, 15 October 2018
A Christian Pilgrim
HOW HARD IT WILL BE FOR THOSE WHO HAVE RICHES TO ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD!
(A biblical refection on THE 28th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME [YEAR B] – 14 October 2018)
Gospel Reading: Mark 10:17-30
First Reading: Wisdom 7:7-11; Psalms: Psalm 90:12-17; Second Reading: Hebrews 4:12-13
The Scripture Text
And as He was setting out on His journey, a man ran up and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to Him, “Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth.” And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.
And Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the Kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the Kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to Him, “Lord, we have left everything and followed You.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for My sake and for the Gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:17-30 RSV)
When Jesus says in today’s Gospel that it is difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God, the apostles can’t believe t heir ears because, like many of the other Jews of their day, they thought the rich had the best shot at being holy.
The Jews considered their laws to be a road map to holiness. A person who followed the laws was holy and someone who broke a law (even if they didn’t know what it was) was a sinner. Since most poor people had to work long hours for the basic necessities of life, hey didn’t have the time to study and learn all the Jewish laws in Scripture and tradition. Therefore, holiness was out of their reach.
Because the rich didn’t have to work so hard, they were able to devote more of their time to learning the interpretations of the law and had a better chance at being holy. Some of them even believed their prosperity was a sign that God was indeed pleased with them.
When Jesus says it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God, He isn’t talking about a sewing needle. Instead, He may be referring to a gate of the city of Jerusalem.
Ancient people built high walls around their cities for protection from hostile armies. They opened gates in the morning and closed these gates at dusk so invaders could not enter the city at night and capture it while everyone slept. The city of Jerusalem had seven main gates and several smaller ones. These gates were narrow and low so the enemy could not ride in on horseback but would first have to dismount and then proceed in on foot. The people of Jerusalem nicknamed one low and narrow gate “the eye of the needle”.
Although this gate kept the enemy out, it also made it difficult for traders who came from distant lands (often with camels laden with heavy, bulky packages) to get into the city. The trader had to unload all the goods from the camel, get the camel to bend down and squeeze through the gate, carry the goods through the gate himself, and then reload the camel. This whole process was time-consuming, hard work.
Jesus is saying in today’s Gospel that just as it is difficult for a camel to get through the eye of the needle because of the baggage, it is difficult for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God. “If it’s hard for a rich man to be holy”, the apostles must have reasoned, “then what chance do poor fishermen like us have?” Jesus tells them not to despair because He doesn’t measure holiness by what a person owns, but by what one is willing to give up in order to follow Him. Whoever sacrifices family and possessions for the sake of the Gospel will have everlasting life.
Please take a few minutes to ask ourselves and answer the question honestly: “Would I be willing to sacrifice some of my own wealth to spread the Gospel?
(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 212-213.)
Prayer: Lord Jesus, I surrender everything that I am to You. Search my heart and show me what hinders me from answering Your call in every moment of my life. Amen.
Jakarta, 13 October 2018
A Christian Pilgrim
Jakarta, 12 October 2018
A Christian Pilgrim