22 August
Mt 19:23-30

Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, 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." When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, "Then who can be saved?" But Jesus looked at them and said, "For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible." Then Peter said in reply, "Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?" Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.

I remember a line from some forgotten poem, “Question and answer were like two peas in a pod, / And neither mattered.”  But paradoxes always matter, and they never go away.  They are not solved or answered like other matters.  “The last shall be first and the first last,” said Jesus (Mt 19:30).  “When I am weak, then I am strong,” wrote Paul (2 Cor 12:10).  Every ‘explanation’ of these is unsatisfactory.  Gregory of Nyssa (c. 332 AD – 395) revelled in paradox more than most: “luminous darkness,” “sober inebriation,” “wise folly,” “stationary movement….”  Today’s gospel reading, you might say, is about ‘rich poverty’.

The history of Christian spirituality is rich in this kind of understanding.  Here are a few examples.  Meister Eckhart said, "The more the soul is collected, the narrower she is, and the narrower, the wider."  Jeanne Guyon, the 18th-century French mystic, wrote, “How very narrow is the gate that leads to life in God! How little one must be to pass through it, since it is death to self. But when we have passed through it, what enlargement we find!  David said (Psalm 18:19) ‘He brought me forth into a large place.’”  Her friend, François Fénelon, wrote, "When we are faithful in instantly dropping all superfluous and restless reflections, which arise from a self-love that is totally different from charity, we shall be set in a large place even in the midst of the strait and narrow path."  And again, "We are in a narrow place, indeed, when we are enclosed in self, but when we emerge from that prison, and enter into the immensity of God and the liberty of his children, we are set at large.”       


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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 


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