The Camel and the Needle

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October 14, 2018 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

October 14, 2018
Mark 10:17-30
Fr. George Smiga

In one of the wineries in Napa Valley there is a life size statue of a camel. The camel is contemplating an excessively oversized needle, straining his neck to look through the needle’s eye. But even though the needle is tremendously enlarged, it is still clear that it is not big enough for the camel to put even his head through its eye. Yet by the expression on the camel’s face it is clear that he is convinced that he will find a way to pass his whole body through the needle’s eye. He will not. Camels are simply too big to pass through even greatly enlarged needles. Jesus uses this vivid image in today’s gospel because Jesus wants to make it clear that our standing in God’s love, our entry into eternal life is not dependent on any action of our part but only on the action of God. There is no amount of thinking or trying or squeezing or pushing on our part that can force us through that needle’s eye. The passage is only made possible by God’s grace.

This truth explains why the rich man in today’s gospel did not follow Jesus. This man was sincere and dedicated. From his youth he followed all of God’s commandments, and Jesus loved him for it. The man was willing to do more, but Jesus did not ask him to do anything. He asked him to let go of everything. He asked him to recognize that all of his actions, all of his accomplishments were not what was essential. What was essential was God’s action. He asked this man to admit that God’s doing was more important than his doing. That was a truth that the rich man could simply not face.

Like the rich man we are called by God to do our best and to meet our responsibilities. But unlike the rich man Christ asks us to remember that God’s doing is more important than our doing. We are called to be good parents, to use all of our wisdom and energy to see that our children mature and become responsible and generous adults. But God’s doing is more important than our doing. Once we have done what we can, it is time to hand our children to God, and trust that he will guide them to what is best and heal in them what is broken. We are called to be holy people. We therefore work to avoid attitudes of envy and prejudice and seeing others merely as the objects of our sexual desires. But fighting these attitudes is difficult, and sometimes we fail. Then we need to remember that God’s doing is more important than our doing. Then we must turn to God and say, “I have done what I can, now it is up to you to save me.” God expects us to build a better world. So, we give our time to serve the poor. We become involved politically to work against injustice. We take up causes such as prison reform. But the efforts we make seem so small compared to the issues that surround us. Again, it is important to remember that what God does is more important than what we do.

Camels cannot pass through the eye of a needle. We cannot on our own do all the good that is necessary. But we are not on our own. God is working with us and through us. And that is why every camel needs to know that all things are possible with God.

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