The Vocation to Pass through the Needle’s Eye, Tuesday of the 20th Week of Ordinary Time (I), August 20, 2013

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Tuesday of the 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Bernard of Clairvaux
August 20, 2013
Judges 6:21-24, Ps 85, Mt 19:23-30

To listen to an audio of today’s homily, please click here: 

The following is a summary of the points made in the homily:

  •  In the follow-up to the scene of the Rich Young Man, Jesus reinforces the point that unless we’re capable of detaching ourselves from material possessions, we will not be able to enter his kingdom. He recognizes how hard it is, saying it is more challenging that a camel’s passing through the eye of a needle. The disciples, who clearly weren’t rich like the Rich Young Man, nevertheless realized that they would have great difficulty detaching themselves from their lesser possessions.
  • Jesus pointed out that what for us would be very hard if not impossible, it’s not impossible for God. He will give us the grace to do so, but we need to ask for it and respond. He says if we do we will gain infinitely more than what we give up. We see this in a scene from the life of St. Bernard whom the Church celebrates today. He came from a very wealthy noble family, but gave it all up to enter the Cistercians, entering with 31 people who had previously tried to dissuade him from the vocation, including four of his brothers and an uncle. He congratulated  his brother Nivard as the older men of the family were entering religious life that Nivard was to be their heir of the entire familial estate, but Nivard complained that that was unfair, that Bernard and the others would inherit eternity and he would just inherit stuff on earth. Nivard recognized the value of the things of God compared to the things of earth and soon would enter through the eye of the needle into religious life with his brothers.
  • If we are afraid of what we might lose, of the vocation to which the Lord is calling us, to enter this Year of Faith through the “door of faith” that is the size of the eye of a needle, we receive great strength from today’s first reading about the vocation of Gideon. He was the least of his family and his family the least of his tribe and nevertheless God called him to free his people from the dominion of the Midianites — and did so when he was fighting with just 300 against the Midianite army of 135,000. If God could strengthen him to do that, he can certainly strengthen us to make the choice that the Rich Young Man couldn’t, and use all that we have for the service of God and others and pass through the eye of the needle with the only thing we can take with us, our deeds of love.

The readings for the Mass were: 

Reading 1
JGS 6:11-24A

The angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth in Ophrah
that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite.
While his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press
to save it from the Midianites,
the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said,
“The LORD is with you, O champion!”
Gideon said to him, “My Lord, if the LORD is with us,
why has all this happened to us?
Where are his wondrous deeds of which our fathers
told us when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’
For now the LORD has abandoned us
and has delivered us into the power of Midian.”
The LORD turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have
and save Israel from the power of Midian.
It is I who send you.”
But Gideon answered him, “Please, my lord, how can I save Israel?
My family is the lowliest in Manasseh,
and I am the most insignificant in my father’s house.”
“I shall be with you,” the LORD said to him,
“and you will cut down Midian to the last man.”
Gideon answered him, “If I find favor with you,
give me a sign that you are speaking with me.
Do not depart from here, I pray you, until I come back to you
and bring out my offering and set it before you.”
He answered, “I will await your return.”So Gideon went off and prepared a kid and a measure of flour
in the form of unleavened cakes.
Putting the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot,
he brought them out to him under the terebinth
and presented them.
The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and unleavened cakes
and lay them on this rock; then pour out the broth.”
When he had done so,
the angel of the LORD stretched out the tip of the staff he held,
and touched the meat and unleavened cakes.
Thereupon a fire came up from the rock
that consumed the meat and unleavened cakes,
and the angel of the LORD disappeared from sight.
Gideon, now aware that it had been the angel of the LORD,
said, “Alas, Lord GOD,
that I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!”
The LORD answered him,
“Be calm, do not fear. You shall not die.”
So Gideon built there an altar to the LORD
and called it Yahweh-shalom.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 85:9, 11-12, 13-14

R. (see 9b) The Lord speaks of peace to his people.
I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD–for he proclaims peace
To his people, and to his faithful ones,
and to those who put in him their hope.
R. The Lord speaks of peace to his people.
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
R. The Lord speaks of peace to his people.
The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and salvation, along the way of his steps.
R. The Lord speaks of peace to his people.

Gospel
MT 19:23-30

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich
to enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Again I say to you,
it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said,
“Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For men this is impossible,
but for God all things are possible.”
Then Peter said to him in reply,
“We have given up everything and followed you.
What will there be for us?”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you
that you who have followed me, in the new age,
when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory,
will yourselves sit on twelve thrones,
judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters
or father or mother or children or lands
for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more,
and will inherit eternal life.
But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”