The eye of the needle
In Mark’s gospel we hear the story of a rich man catching up with Jesus.
“I’ve lived faithfully and followed the commandments,” he says. “What more must I do to inherit eternal life?”
On hearing Jesus’ prescription (give away everything to the poor and follow me) he leaves in despair. He cannot untangle himself from the wealth that controls him.
Jesus looks after him sadly, saying, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Many, however, have dropped the load controlling them. We cannot know the stories of all who’ve walked with Jesus on the Way, but we can know the paths they made by walking. We see them in hospitals built for the sick and infirm. In way stations provided for the hungry, in hostels made ready for the homeless, in blessings offered and love poured freely. We know them by the fruit we harvest from trees they planted.
We are given choices in life, and those choices allow us to determine whether or not the love of God can enter in and help us shape our responses to the world around us. The circumstance of each choice is as individual and unique as each one of us. Tailor made, you might say, but for some of us, threading the needle with a camel might be the easier option.
Anyone can catch Jesus on the road. Can say to him: “I live a good life, I look after my parents, tend to my children, I compost food scraps, buy organic products, fair trade foods and bird friendly coffee. I carry my own shopping bags and tithe ten percent of all I earn to worthy charitable organizations and I volunteer for peace, for health and for social change. What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
I suspect if we did that Jesus might look deeply into our lives and living. He might look for what’s controlling us, what’s keeping us from opening ourselves up to the presence of God who is alive and calling to us from every particle of creation. Having helped us figure that out, he’d offer a suggestion, a prescription.
“Put a needle in here, poke a hole through that wall over there, make a breach in that dam, let it all flood in, let it all flood out.”
He might ask whether the things we think we’ve earned a right to are controlling us. He might ask us to let go of our tightly wrapped, endlessly preserved life-styles so that the light of God can find a way in through the cracks. He might ask us to look into a neighbours’ eyes.
Whether we ask or not we will, someday, be asked ourselves. What do we need to leave behind so that we can come and follow? What do we need to leave behind so that we might help build the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven?
Keith Simmonds is a diaconal minister in the Communities in Faith Pastoral Charge serving Beaver Valley, Rossland, Salmo and Trail.