The Gospel Reading from Mark today points out that it is hard to enter the kingdom of God. How much easier is it for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle! Sometimes that image gets translated, whether correctly or not, into a camel going through a gate in Jerusalem that was meant for people and not animals. Everything the camel was carrying had to be removed in order for the camel to get through. Some scholars say this does not pertain to this particular Gospel, but I like the image anyway.
When I heard the reading proclaimed last night, the thought that ran through my head was that when Jesus addressed the young man, he already knew the biggest barrier for him. Looking at him in love and with compassion, he placed the challenge before him: You lack one thing: go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me. Each of us has that one stumbling block, the one piece of baggage that removing from the camel’s back causes angst. This item is what creates for us the inability to follow Jesus. It varies for each of us. St. Ignatius called these inordinate attachments. They prevent us from being truly free.
The Second Reading from Hebrews is truth: The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. When the word of God is a word for us, it slices through everything and strikes our hearts. If the word is for us, we can recognize it and it will resonate in ways that will call forth change. The man heard the word of God that day, spoken through Jesus. He left grieving. We never know if the man is so unsettled that he does sell everything and follows Jesus or if he carries on his life unchanged. Perhaps he remains unable to follow the Christ but carries the burden of the words that prevent him from treasure in heaven.
In Wisdom 7, we see how the Spirit of Wisdom is yearned for more than anything else. All good things come to the one who seeks Wisdom. Perhaps the man did eventually return to Jesus, empty-handed but full-hearted. Sometimes we need a little more time to unpack the camel to get through the gate. Our narrow minds cannot comprehend this new way of living.
May the favour of the Lord be upon us, as the psalmist sings, and prosper for us, the work of our hands. May we gain a wise heart and an open mind as we let go of all that stops us from running the race that Jesus calls us to.
How much baggage must you remove from the camel?
What is the inordinate attachment that you cannot let go of?
You know I lack one thing
but you look at me and love me
right now, even as I insist on
dragging that baggage with me.
Help me to let it go and
follow you with empty hands
and a big heart for you.