Sr Louise O' Rourke PDDM
The eye of the needle’
Have you ever tried to thread a needle? Even with the best of eyesight, it can still be a complex task- to get that thin piece of thread through that little eye and then proceed with the task at hand. So can you imagine trying to get a camel (yes, a camel!), through the eye of a needle! This image is one which Jesus uses in this Sunday’s Gospel.
The Gospel sets the scene of a man who comes to Jesus to seek out eternal life. He had lived the commandments all his life. What more could he do? We are told that Jesus looks at the man with a deep love, an agape love, a love which is not superficial but reaches the soul. His response to the man is: “Go and sell everything you own, give the money to the poor, and then you will have treasure in heaven.”
The gaze of Jesus steadies him to look inwards. When we come to pray, in the words of St. John Vianney, the Cure’ of Ars, “We look at Him and He looks at us”. It is an intimate time of heart-to-heart interaction. The encounter with Jesus should always steady us within ourselves even though the message of the Gospel and following the Lord will move us out of our comfort zones Sadly the man realises that he could not leave behind his riches and he goes away on his own path. It is here that Jesus speaks to the disciples saying: “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.”
It is believed that at the time of Jesus there was an extremely narrow gate in Jerusalem called the ‘eye of the needle’ through which a camel could not pass unless it stooped down and had all its baggage first removed. Is there baggage which slows us down from being able to move freely, physically, emotionally, spiritually, to live completely for the Lord? During the lockdown of the pandemic, people started clearing out their homes and de-cluttering. Maybe because we had to spend some time in our homes, we realised we were being ‘stuffocated’, that our lives had become cluttered with unnecessary belongings, things never used, with baggage which we are attached to.
The promise of having treasure in Heaven should challenge each one of us, here and now, to ask ourselves, what do we count as treasure here on earth? Again, during the pandemic we have been forced to redefine what is ‘essential’ in our lives. Who is essential is our lives? Many rediscovered the beauty of a simple life more focused on solidifying bonds and friendships and appreciating the free gifts of God’s creation around us. We realised that we are more interconnected and interdependent than we realise and that if we live simply, others may simply, live. This in turn leads us to be humbler and hopefully also to be a people of gratitude, of Eucharistic living.
However, it is possible to live differently. During the week we celebrated the feastday of St. Francis of Assisi, a saint who embraced poverty in its entirety. He renounced his inheritance and his riches to imitate and live the poverty of Christ. From his life we can see that the vow of poverty was not a vow of misery. He lived poverty joyfully! As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said of him: “The first Beatitude of the Sermon on the Mount — blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:3) -found a luminous fulfillment in the life and in the words of St. Francis.”
As Jesus desired that the man in this Sunday’s Gospel be detached from his riches so as to be free in mind, heart and will, to follow Jesus, with no baggage, let us ask ourselves is Jesus truly our Treasure? As he asked the man to be detached from what he owned so it did not own him, so he could rely on Jesus for all that he needed and to follow Him, joyfully, simply, humbly, He asks the same of us. Anyone who has walked on pilgrimage carrying their belongings on their shoulders knows how much easier it is to travel with only what is essential for the journey and trusting in Providence for the rest! Let us learn to journey focused on Christ alone and allow ourselves to be steadied by his gaze of love!