The Poverty of Christ

First Reading: Ez. 28:1-10

Psalm: Dt. 32:26-27ab, 27cd-28, 30, 35cd-36ab

Gospel: Mt. 19:23-30

Today’s Gospel reading invites us to make a reflection very similar to yesterday’s reflection. Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “It’s easier for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter theKingdomofHeaven.” Our tendency when we hear this statement is to rationalize it out of existence: it’s just Jesus making use of hyperbole or exaggeration, the sort of thing the Jews of his day loved to use and hear. Or: the apostles were so startled by what Jesus said, that they asked, “Then who can be saved?” To ease the Apostles’ anxiety Jesus immediately softened his words: “With God all things are possible.” In other words, it’ll take a miracle to save a rich man, but God can work miracles.

As in yesterday’s reflection, that’s not always true; there are limitations on God’s miracle-making power. Remember the time Jesus went back to his hometown?

According to St. Mark, “Jesus was unable to perform miracles there, aside from curing a few sick people. He was amazed at lack of faith [of the people ofNazareth].”

More to the point, in yesterday’s Gospel Jesus was unable to work a miracle in the heart of the rich man who wanted to become his disciple. The miracle Jesus tried to perform, separating him from his wealth, failed. God was powerless to work a miracle in the rich man’s heart.

There’s the trouble with riches. We pass so easily from the possession of riches to being possessed by them and then not even God can free us of our slavery.

The rich man in yesterday’s Gospel was a perfect example. The rich are those who have steady work, secure jobs, assured incomes, comfortable homes, healthy food. In a country in which the vast majority of the people live below the poverty line, we are the rich, and therefore we are at risk in Jesus’ eyes.

Can we detach ourselves, not from what we need for our daily living, but from our surplus, detach ourselves from it and offer it to God, to Jesus, for the poor? If we cannot, we’re no different than the rich man in yesterday’s Gospel. Against our will, God cannot work miracles in our hearts. Perhaps we are no longer servants of God but slaves of wealth. There are some really hard questions we have to ask ourselves.

  • Max Effort

    I disagree that Jesus was unable to perform a miracle in the case of the rich man. It’s important to remember that one of the greatest gifts that God has bestowed upon man is free will.
    In this situation, JESUS IS NOT POWERLESS. His power is not dependent upon our belief. Rather He respects the free will of the rich man to make his own choice. If Jesus were to perform a miracle in this instance by having this man renounce his riches and come follow Him, it would constitute a retraction of the gift of free will. Jesus has the power (no limitations) but chooses not to exercise it; He chooses to respect our free will — His gift to us.
    The same is true of our redemption. By His death and resurrection, Jesus has redeemed us. But it remains our choice if we wish to particpate in that redemption. And our choice is expressed, not by words alone, but by our actions. Are our actions in harmony with our spoken words?