A Reflection on the Daily Readings
by Deacon Mike Manno
Tuesday, August 18, 2020
20th week in Ordinary Time
We’ve all heard of this Gospel passage before: “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.”
In order to help us understand the message here, the Church has provided us with the reading from Ezekiel as an introduction. Just as an aside, we should note that the readings at Mass are connected. There is a connection between the Old Testament reading and the day’s Gospel, even on Sunday. So let’s take a look at Ezekiel’s reading.
It is directed to the king of Tyre who, due to his wealth and position considers himself a god. This really isn’t that unusual as you can readily name several other rulers from history who considered themselves gods and demanded to be worshiped as same by their people.
But God answers the king back, “Because you have thought yourself to have the mind of a god, therefore I will bring against you foreigners, the most barbarous of nations. … They shall thrust you down to the pit, there to die a bloodied corpse, in the heart of the sea. … No, you are a man, not a god, handed over to those who will slay you.”
Tough words against the king.
He was being condemned because he had wealth, wisdom, and power, but misused all. He assumed that by possessing all that he had he was invincible, then acted without regard for his people.
Jesus was reacting to the old Jewish notion that wealth was a sign of favor from God; he was telling the disciples no one will enter the Kingdom because of their wealth, possessions, or achievements. Instead, only by the grace of God.
Obviously possessions are important to our daily lives, but we will be judged more on how we use those possessions, those tangible gifts given to us by our Creator, than by the simple possession of them alone.
There is a story I have heard that in the Old City there actually was an entrance called “The Needle’s Eye.” It was not large, however, a camel could fit through it – but only if all the baggage the camel was carrying was removed, then could the animal fit through the gate. I don’t know if the story is true or not, but it is a good image to take from the story: it is not your wealth that will save you, it’s how you have distanced yourself from it.
Assisting those in need who have less wealth is one way to do that.