|Memorial of St. Bernard
Deuteronomy 32:26-27, 27-28, 30, 35-36
“…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24
Today’s gospel passage reached out and truly brought me up short. Oh, it’s not that today’s teaching is new; this passage is well-known to all those familiar with Jesus’ words. But, today, as I write this reflection, it indicts me.
Am I rich? Do I possess a great deal of material wealth? No, by U.S. standards, I live a lifestyle that would be characterized as moderate. (Of course, that means that in comparison to most peoples in the world, I am quite wealthy. And, that’s another story in and of itself.)
But, if—for the moment—we use U.S. standards of wealth, then why I am indicted by this passage. I am not rich. I am not faced with the dilemma that Jesus points to in this passage. Or, am I?
I think I am. I don’t think Jesus is speaking literally of “being rich”—however, one defines that monetarily and materially. I think he is talking about my (our?) attachment to material things and the presumption of security we attach to those things. That attachment results in a tendency to be overly pre-occupied with issues of money and things—how much, what do I own, what can I buy with that, will we have enough??
True, part of my current preoccupation with these questions is tied to the imminent departure of our son Jon for college at an institution that causes us to stretch beyond our resources enormously. So, money—or that sense of lack of “enough”—is a common theme in our interactions these days. And, with the emphasis on money and material goods comes the sense that I/we have to make it all happen. In recent weeks, there has been this strong undercurrent that decisions must be based on issues of financial reward, the fiscal bottom line—rather than living into the life God created us to live.
Oh, I don’t think I was conscious of that having become core to my thinking. It just sort of “slipped in” to the midst of other issues and concerns—but soon it became the dominant piece. And, that is what Jesus is warning us about in this passage—as I hear it today in the context of my life. The reason the rich person will have enormous difficulty entering into God’s kingdom is not (or not “just”) the wealth itself, but the place that wealth assumes in a person’s life. If wealth—its acquisition and its “ownership”—dominates one’s life, where is the place for God? Where is the space and the time and the place in our hearts and our minds for God’s life-giving touch and promise to open and bloom?
Yes, I am indicted…I struggle in the moment…and lost sight (and will
probably do so again) of the real source of life. God is enough.
May I continue to learn and re-learn the peace of that truth. May
it be so.
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