This week's Gospel consists of three passages all focusing on the topic of wealth and the kingdom of God. Traditionally, wealth was understood by Judaism as a sign of God’s blessing.
People who had wealth were expected to be active in almsgiving and to be concerned for the poor and the destitute. To be wealthy did not necessarily imply selfishness or lack of concern for those in need. Nevertheless, Jesus’ teaching on wealth and possession challenges the acceptable thinking of his day and even shocks his own disciples.
1) The cost of eternal life. A man who had many possessions questioned Jesus regarding the requirements for inheriting eternal life? Jesus’ first response is the traditional one. Keep the commandments. However, the man was looking for something more since he already was faithful to the commandments. Jesus considered this man sincere and he loved him. Based on that love Jesus raises the bar and challenges the man to do the one thing he lacks. He is to sell what he has, give to the poor, and then come follow Jesus. It will not get any better than that. But sad to say, the man cannot do it. He had many possessions.
2) Instruction to the disciples. Jesus teaches that wealth can be a real stumbling block for those wanting to enter the kingdom of God. It is not impossible but close to it, exemplified by the image of a camel going through the eye of a needle. Human effort alone will not work. What is required is the grace of God. All things are possible for God. This kind of teaching would be very disturbing as it goes against everything common understanding maintained.
3) What about us? Peter asks the question that was no doubt on the minds of all the disciples. They had given up everything to follow Jesus. What are they going to get for their many sacrifices? Jesus assures the disciples that the rewards they will get are infinitely greater than the sacrifices they have had to make. These rewards will apply to the future but also to the here and now. Living in the reality of God’s kingdom is a reward that is hard to describe. It includes a social dynamic and a fellowship unknown to many. The call to discipleship is a call to love beyond imagination. It redefines a hundredfold.