September 13, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Luke 18:24-30.
Jesus looked at him [now sad] and said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard this said, “Then who can be saved?” And he said, “What is impossible for human beings is possible for God.” Then Peter said, “We have given up our possessions and followed you.” He said to them, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who will not receive [back] an overabundant return in this present age and eternal life in the age to come.”
Jesus saw the disappointment in the rich official’s eyes when he told them to sell all he had. Though the official had apparently given up, Jesus wasn’t through with him. He wanted him to know that with faith and trust in God he could do anything even give up his wealth. What he would receive in return would more than make up for his loss both in the kingdom on earth and in heaven.
I was talking with a friend this morning who has been affected by the flooding in Colorado. We talked about our dismay over the trajectory of our world in terms of overpopulation, climate change, inequities in wealth, and a host of other issues that seem to be heading us toward calamity. I admitted that I get overwhelmed by the immensity of the problems and a total inability to be able to do anything significant to change things beyond my small community. He agreed that he felt the same way. However, he added that at thought prayer – individual and communal — was the only possible remedy. His reply caught me short. “What is impossible for human beings is possible for God.” What was true in Jesus’ time is just as true today.
I continue to look to myself to do what only God can do. My first inclination is not to pray, not to trust that He will save us from ourselves, not to discern what he wants my role to be. If I can’t give up my attachments and surrender my ego to God, to follow His commandments and Jesus’ teachings, I will never be able to enter the kingdom of God on earth. It’s just as impossible as it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. Only in making my self small, can I thread the eye of the needle. I can’t rely first on myself; I have to rely first on God.
I have trouble doing this, because as I told a friend at lunch I still think I need to be perfect. That’s doesn’t leave any room for God and certainly doesn’t lead me to rely upon God as my first option. As Sanford writes in The Kingdom Within, “The danger of wealth is not that it automatically excludes the one who possesses it from the kingdom, but that it greatly strengthens the outer mask and inflates the ego. By giving a person a feeling of power, influence, and regard among others, it makes it difficult for him or her to achieve the inner humility and admission of spiritual need.” Admission of spiritual need should always be in the forefront of my mind because it is a fundamental truth and the basis of belief in God.
Richard Rohr in The Good News According to Luke puts it forcefully, “In other words, says Jesus, ‘It’s God’s problem. Salvation is God’s problem. I’m giving you the gospel of freedom, the gospel of peace. Live it as best you can and leave the problem of salvation up to God.” Those are words I need to hear over and over. I naturally want to make everything my problem because I have the arrogance to think it’s my responsibility and within my power to solve. Not so, says Jesus. “What is impossible for human beings is possible for God.” I need to listen to Jesus and to heed his words. But then, that’s true of all his words in the gospels. As Fr. Mike said last Sunday, “If you want to be a follower of Jesus, you have to read the gospels.” So very true!