Lectio Divina: Matthew 19:23-30
1) Opening prayer
God our Father,
may we love You in all things and above all things
and reach the joy You have prepared for us
beyond all our imagining.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 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."
• The Gospel today is the immediate continuation of yesterday’s Gospel. It gives Jesus’ commentary regarding the rich young man’s negative reaction.
• Matthew 19:23-24: The camel and the eye of the needle. After the young man leaves, Jesus comments on his decision: “In truth I tell you, it is hard for someone rich to enter the kingdom of Heaven. Yes, I tell you again, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for someone rich to enter the kingdom of Heaven.” Two observations concerning this affirmation of Jesus: a) the proverb of the camel and of the eye of the needle was used to say that something was impossible and unthinkable, humanly speaking. b) The expression “that someone rich enters the kingdom of Heaven” is a question, in the first place, not of entrance into Heaven after death, but of entering into the community around Jesus. And even now this is true. It is very difficult for the rich to enter and to feel at home in the communities which try to live the Gospel according to Jesus’ standards and which try to be open to the poor, the migrants and to those excluded by society. However, this does not also mean that riches bring their own temptations which distance the person from God.
• Matthew 19:25-26: The disciples’ fear. The young man had observed the commandments, but without understanding the reason for the observance. Something similar was happening with the disciples. When Jesus called them, they did exactly the same thing which Jesus had asked the young man: they left everything and followed Jesus (Mt 4:20,22). But they were astonished at Jesus’ remark concerning the impossibility for someone rich to enter the Kingdom of God. This was a sign that they had not understood well the response which Jesus had given to the rich young man: “Go, sell all you possess, give it to the poor and then come and follow Me!” If they had understood, they would not have been so surprised by the requests of Jesus. When wealth or the desire for riches occupies one’s heart and one’s outlook on life, one does not understand the meaning of life and of the Gospel. God alone can help! “This is impossible for man, but for God all is possible!”
• Matthew 19:27: Peter’s question. The background of the disciples’ misunderstanding appears in the question asked by Peter: “Look, we have left everything and have followed You. What are we to have then?” In spite of the beautiful generosity of abandoning everything, they still have the old mentality. They have abandoned everything in order to get something in exchange. They still had not grasped the meaning of service and gratuitousness.
• Matthew 19:28-30: Jesus’ reply. "In truth I tell you, when everything is made new again and the Son of Man is seated on His throne of glory you yourselves will sit on twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or land for the sake of My name will receive a hundred times as much and also inherit eternal life. Many, who are first, will be last, and the last, first.” In this response, Jesus describes the new world, the foundation of which had been laid by His work and that of the disciples. Jesus stresses three important points: (a) The disciples will sit on twelve thrones next to Jesus to judge the twelve tribes of Israel (cf. Rev 4:4). (b) In exchange they will receive many things which they had abandoned: houses, brothers, sisters, mother, children land and will inherit eternal life. (c) The future world will be the reverse of the present world. There, the last ones will be the first ones and the first ones will be the last ones. The community around Jesus is the seed and the manifestation of this new world. Even today the small community of the poor continues to be the seed and manifestation of the Kingdom.
• Every time that in the history of the people of the Bible a new movement arises to renew the Covenant, it begins by re-establishing the rights of the poor, of the excluded. Without that, the Covenant will not be reconstructed. This is the sense and the reason for the insertion of the community of Jesus into the midst of the poor. It draws from these roots and it inaugurates the New Covenant.
4) Personal questions
• To abandon houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children, fields, for the sake of Jesus: how does this take place in your life? What have you already received in exchange? What are you expecting?
• Today, the majority of poor countries are not of the Christian religion, while the majority of the rich countries are. How can the saying that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle be applied today?
5) Concluding Prayer
Even were I to walk in a ravine as dark as death
I should fear no danger,
for You Lord, are at my side.
Your staff and Your crook are there to soothe me. (Ps 23:4)