From the Pastor – October 11, 2015 new orleans catholic churches“Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!  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.”  (Mk 10:25-26)

Before I entered seminary, I heard a homily preached on this Gospel passage.  The priest explained that one of the gates to enter Jerusalem that was called the “eye of the needle.”  Camels could only go through the “eye of the needle” if they were crawling on their knees and stripped of baggage.  The implication was that we only get to Heaven “on our knees” and free of attachment to possessions.  At the time, it seemed like a good explanation.  But when I was in seminary studying Sacred Scripture, I learned there was no such gate.  His cute story was a complete fabrication!

However, there are explanations that help us to understand the word usage of Jesus.  Think about it.  Why a camel and the eye of a needle?  Why not an elephant and a keyhole?  Maybe a blue whale and a bathtub drain?  Well, one reason for the words is that rope was made from camel hair, and the Greek words are very similar: kamilos (rope) and kamelos (camel).  Since rope wouldn’t fit through the eye of a sewing needle, Jesus is using both a pun and the literary device of hyperbole.  It’s actually pretty funny, when you think about it!  Since there’s no way that a rope, let alone a camel, can get through the eye of a needle, Jesus is basically saying it’s impossible for a rich person to get to Heaven.  And that threw the Apostles for a loop.  Riches were supposed to be signs of God’s favor on earth.  If someone who was obviously in God’s favor (a very wealthy person) couldn’t get to Heaven, then “who can be saved?”  (Mk 10:26).  Far from liking the pun or the hyperbole, the Apostles were horrified that no one could be saved.

And that’s when Jesus lets them off the hook. “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”  (Mk 10:27).  Not only can God get a camel through the eye of the needle, but God can get each of us to Heaven.  And His Son came to show us how He would do that.  And Jesus revealed Himself as the “way” to Heaven by his life, death and resurrection.

In this week’s Gospel passage, Jesus helps us to understand that Heaven is not “here.”  It’s not the material things, the comforts and the pleasures of earth.  All of those things are passing away, and they can be actual hindrances to us if we strive for Heaven.  They take up our time, they distract us, and they are inferior to the treasures of Heaven.  Not everyone is called to voluntarily live a life of poverty, but some people are.  And the ones that have done so in the most dramatic way – St. Francis of Assisi and Mother Teresa of Calcutta come to mind – are the ones that point us to share in God’s happiness here on earth rather than the fleeting happiness of earthly things.  Jesus Christ gives us a happiness that the world can’t give, and a happiness that the world can’t take away.  But we might never experience that happiness if we spend all of our time focusing on the fleeting happiness of created things. new orleans mass times
Rev. Msgr. Christopher H. Nalty