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A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark 10:17-30
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “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 he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “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.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age-houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions-and in the age to come eternal life."


One of the delightful scenes from the musical 'Fiddler on the Roof' begins with Tevye talking to God. He says to the Almighty; 'O Dear Lord, you made many poor people. I realise of course that it is no shame to be poor, but it's not a great honour either. So, what would be wrong if I had a little fortune?' Then he begins to sing and dance his dream of how life would be 'if I were a rich man?' - there's the house he could build, the clothes his wife would wear and the respect he would win in the community.
Perhaps at one time or another every one of us has had a similar dream - winning the Lotto, not having to worry about bills, mortgages or whatever. Yes, it's a lovely thought, but we should keep in mind that money has its own inventory of problems. In today's Gospel (Mark 10: 17-30) Jesus talked about the perils of prosperity. He said that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. Local guides tell pilgrims to Jerusalem that Jesus was referring here to a certain low archway in the walls of David's city that made it exceedingly difficult for camels to pass through and known in Jesus' day as 'the eye of the needle'. We know that Jesus was not well off. He once remarked that he had 'no place to lay down his head'. He and his disciples must often have slept out at night in the open, which in balmy weather would have been tolerable. We also know that Jesus had just been talking to a young man who is described in the Gospel as having many possessions. Without realising it, this man is in a good state, but he still lacks something - loving God to the exclusion of all idols. This was the essence of the first tablet of the law and this was still lacking, but when he heard the price, it was more than what he was prepared to pay, and he went away, we are told, 'very sad'. To go and sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor and then to follow this itinerant prophet was not on.
This encounter shocked his disciples and perhaps we too were taken aback. To go and sell all seemed a bit harsh, when perhaps today we might urge such a well-off young man to 'go, invest his money' and he'd have a fine pension for himself in later years. Riches to the disciples and the people of Jesus' day were regarded as a sign of divine favour. We often hear about poverty and the effects it can have on those afflicted, but we would do well also to heed what Jesus has to say about prosperity.
You and I may not regard ourselves as rich, but we live in a culture that is somewhat obsessed with the material side of life. Success today has become only one thing - money. So, we may very well ask what it is about money, the desire for it, and the love of it that causes such deep concern in the compassionate heart of the Saviour?
Well, prosperity can create an illusion and keep us from seeing ourselves as we really are. A rich person has standing and rank in the community. They are treated with deference, they can receive concessions, and they have what we term 'access'. They don't have to wait in queues and voices within suggest to them that they are a cut above the common lot. Yet all the while, prosperity may only be window dressing and says nothing about the person one really is. Bob Geldof remarked that the bulk of the millions donated each year by the Irish people to alleviate starvation and provide infrastructure for projects in the Third World, do not come from the coffers of the rich, but the Euro and cent of ordinary folk.
Money is a powerful force, but it can pose an obstacle to one's entry into God's kingdom. The secret millionaires who present themselves in documentaries on our TV screens, may have unlocked the secret of having a 'little fortune' and disbursing it on worthy causes before the curtain on their lives comes to a close.

Kevin Lyon
Archdeacon of Glendalough


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