JUDGES 6: 11 – 24a
In those days: The angel of the Lord came and sat under the oak at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press, to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valour.” And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this befallen us? And where are all his wonderful deeds which our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has cast us off, and given us into the hand of Midian.” And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I deliver Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” And he said to him, “If now I have found favour with you, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me: Do not depart from here, I beg you, until I come to you, and bring out my present, and set it before you.” And he said, “I will stay till you return.” So Gideon went into his house and prepared a kid, and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour; the meat he put in a basket, and the broth he put in a pot, and brought them to him under the oak and presented them. And the angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and put them on this rock, and pour the broth over them.” And he did so. Then the angel of the Lord reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes; and there sprang up fire from the rock and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight. Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the Lord; and Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord GOD! For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.” But the Lord said to him, “Peace be to you; do not fear, you shall not die.” Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it, The Lord is peace.
The Word of the Lord.
Psalm 85: 9, 11 – 14(R.) 9b
R/. The Lord speaks of peace for his people.
I will hear what the Lord God speaks;
He speaks of peace for his people and his faithful,
And those who turn their hearts to him. R.
Merciful love and faithfulness have met;
justice and peace have kissed.
Faithfulness shall spring from the earth,
and justice look down from heaven. R.
Also the Lord will bestow his bounty,
and our earth shall yield its increase.
Justice will march before him,
And guide his steps on the way. R.
2nd Corinthians 8: 9
Though Jesus Christ was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.
MATTHEW 19: 23 – 30
At that time: Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, 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.” When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Then Peter said in reply, “Behold, we have left everything and followed you. What then shall we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. But many that are first will be last, and the last first.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
REFLECTION: The Eye of a Needle
August 17, 2021
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.” (Matthew 19:24–26)
According to one tradition, the “eye of the needle” referred to a gate in the wall of Jerusalem. During the day, there was a large gate that was open through which a camel could easily pass. But at night, the larger gate was closed and there was a smaller opening in the center of the gate that allowed people to pass through. A camel, however, could not pass through that smaller opening unless it got down on its knees, had its load removed from its back, and then crawled through. In referencing this story, Saint Anselm states that “the rich should not be able to pass along the narrow way that leads to life, till he had put off the burden of sin, and of riches, that is, by ceasing to love them” (Catena Aurea). So is it possible for a camel to enter through the “eye of the needle” and, therefore, a rich man to enter into Heaven? Yes. But only under the condition of being on their knees, humbling themselves, and ridding themselves of the “baggage” of their riches.
For those who are truly rich in the things of this world, this Gospel passage may be difficult to read and reflect upon. It was spoken in reference to the rich young man who asked Jesus how he can enter into eternal life. Jesus’ answer was “go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” At that, the rich young man went away sad because he was clearly attached to his wealth.
Jesus’ explanation above, however, should give hope to anyone who struggles with this high expectation. The disciples were truly troubled by what Jesus said, and that is why Jesus followed up by saying, “For men this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” For God all things are possible! This statement of fact should be carefully pondered and believed by anyone who struggles with being overly attached to material riches. It should also be noted that one can be attached to riches even if they do not have riches. The desire for more is the attachment that needs to be cleansed, not the actual possession of riches. In fact, it is possible to have many possessions and not be attached to them at all. This is the beauty of poverty of spirit. But be careful not to presume that you have perfected this beatitude too quickly. Jesus’ statement above was said out of love for those who are overly attached to the things of this world. So if this is you, be merciful to yourself and pay close attention to Jesus’ words and your own interior struggle with this.
Reflect, today, upon this clear and unambiguous statement of Jesus. “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.” Do you believe this? Can you accept this? Is Jesus speaking to you through this passage? Again, even if you are materially poor, is your desire for riches strong? If so, this passage equally applies to you. Allow this passage to sit within your heart in a prayerful way and try to be as honest as you can with yourself as you read it. Do not hesitate to choose the true riches of Heaven over the passing things of this world. In the end, the value of spiritual wealth infinitely outweighs anything you possess for your short time here on earth.
Lord of true riches, You desire that each of us be filled with spiritual wealth that is infinitely greater than anything we could obtain in this world. Please free me from my attachment to material wealth so that I can live free from that burden. Help me to see the value of the treasures of Your grace and mercy and to make this true wealth the single focus of my life. Jesus, I trust in You.