(Posted on October 8, 2015)
For anyone who has ever seen the movie, “My Cousin Vinny,” there’s a wonderful moment that applies quite nicely to our surprising Gospel reading this coming Sunday. In the movie, Joe Pesci is a freshly minted Long Island lawyer who goes to the rescue of his young cousin who stands wrongly accused of murder in a small town in the Deep South. The judge had already cautioned Pesci about his tacky courtroom attire of black leather jacket and slacks at his first appearance as his cousin’s defense attorney. When the judge sees him in court the second time still in his leathers, he scolds him. Pesci looks at him and says, “You mean you were serious about that?”
In this week’s Gospel, Jesus encounters a sincere young man who wants to know how he could merit eternal life. Jesus is loving but very clear. He says, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." When the young man heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. Jesus then follows up with a Gospel remark that has challenged us since it was uttered: “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."
We enter into this scene in our own times, asking Jesus, “You mean you were serious about that?”
Surely God couldn’t expect us to give it all up to follow God’s Son! The truth is, Scripture is meant to challenge us, to disquiet us with things we don’t necessarily want to hear. As contemporary theological writer Ernesto Tinajero points out, "If you read the Bible and it does not challenge you, then you are reading yourself and not the Bible." This weekend we will explore just what it is that Jesus is asking us to do in order to become the righteous people that can pass through the eye of the needle, humps and all.