Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Our gospel today confronts us with the ancient rivalry between riches and reign of God. The longer form of today’s gospel has three messages: the story of the rich/sad young man, the image of the camel and the eye of the needle, and sayings about the rewards of discipleship. The shorter form leaves out this third part. What is at work here is a radical teaching about the Christian attitude to wealth and social ethics. And all of this takes place on the way to Jerusalem. In the first story we meet Jesus as a real human being, a prophet who is not moved by flattery but is concerned to teach people about God, the Good One, the Holy One. Note the personal nature of the man’s question and Jesus’ reply. Jesus invites the man to a new stage of spiritual development. It is by going to God alone that the good is found. Attitudes to wealth and attachments to wealth need to be radically changed if the disciple is serious about journeying into God and the fullness of life. The camel story also underlines the same issues: does attachment to wealth make discipleship difficult or impossible? Are we dealing with a camel squeezing through a side gate or a rope trying to pass through the eye of an actual needle? And the rewards of discipleship? The answer is paradoxical: blessings and persecutions.