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In the eye of the Needle...!

Mk 10, 17-30

We are following Jesus through the gospel of Mark. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem as a pilgrim; We are continuing on its journey through Galilee, through the Jordan Valley that goes up to Jerusalem, which is the typical route of pilgrims who follow the serpentine bank of the Jordan River, an accessible route because it is a plain and because of the abundance of water.

Jesus had challenged everyone with his speech: "What God has joined, let not man separate." He not only puts the dots on the

" i ", also puts 'full stop' to the question of divorce practiced in a scandalous way both in Jewish and Roman society. Jesus Christ says a definitive word, said from the beginning: I create them to be one flesh and who separates to unite withother commits adultery. 

The discourse of divorce, no matter how many justifications one wants to give, is nothing other than the consequence of the disease detected by the Master of Galilee in last week's gospel, thesclerocardia, the hardness of the heart. And this week, we are given one of the reasons or causes for which this disease of hardness of heart is acquired: the love for the things and riches of this world.

While he is on his way, through the Jordan Valley, a semi-desert area that during the winter is home to streams here and there that await the rain and the morning dew, and with this it covers its hills with green, and suddenly, the text tells us, one comes running to where Jesus, knelt before him, and almost out of breath asks him: Good Master! What do I have to do to inherit Eternal Life? What a scene! I imagine Jesus' face of surprise, wonder, bewilderment before this man there suddenly prostrated before him and calling him Good Master.

Jesus first of all asks him why he calls him Good when only one is good! and that is God! He is recognized as a Teacher, everyone recognizes him as a teacher in Greek didáskalos (διδάσκαλος); in the Jewish people it is a man who teaches the things of God, a rabbi in Hebrew; but Jesus does not appropriate the title 'Good' because good good only God, and yes, he is God, but could it be that his consciousness as Son of God is progressing, his divinity is also hidden from himself? Or is it that he is confronting him with the conception that he really has of Jesus, teacher or God? oh!!!

Jesus takes advantage of the issue to go further. That is why he shows him the way: "you know the commandments", the Greek word entolás (ἐντολὰς), that is, commandments, precepts, refers to the 10 commandments of the Covenant written by God with his own finger on the tables of the law and delivered to Moses on Sinai (Ex 24,12). The answer is simple and plain, in fact you already know it, it is close to you, in your heart, you just have to practice it: do you want to have Eternal Life? you know the answer:

"Because this commandment that I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it far away. It is not in heaven, so that you can say: Who will ascend to heaven for us, and bring it to us and make us hear it so that we can hear it?" Nor is it on the other side of the sea, so that you may say, Who will pass through the sea for us, to bring it to us and make us hear it, so that we may fulfill it?Because very close to you is the word, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you fulfill it.” (Dt 30,11-14). You know the commandments, you know the answer well. Yes, the Master, as a good legislator, indicates clear and precise rules, he does not impose, suggest, remind, or invite. And he does not burden his conscience with more burdensome things because eternal life is already accessible to those who with faith try to live the commandments, which no one ever said were easy.

Jesus lists some of the commandments written on those stone tablets, a sign of God's first covenant with his people, he cites some of those that refer especially to one's duties towards one's neighbor, fulfilling them is already living in eternal life, that is to say in the Life of God that does not perish: you will not steal, you will not commit adultery, you will not bear false witness, you will not deceive, which is another way of stealing because it is unfairly depriving your neighbor, honor your father and mother. Do them and you will live. The revelation is not only clear, it has already been said since ancient times, it is part of that Alliance between God and the people of Israel in which the Good God promises to give eternal Life to that people if they comply with the prescribed commandments.

For this man, this is a piece of cake... it's been a matter of life for a long time. In reality, the evangelist Mark in this man is representing all those people of the people of Israel who with a pure and sincere heart practiced the commandments of the First Alliance, the one established through Moses in the desert, and which will later become Torah, law par excellence, the perfect one. This man from his youth had practiced the Alliance, including that ofdo not adulterate that is, divorce. For this reason we say that this man is the personification of that part of the people of Israel that during the time of pilgrimage through the desert prostrates itself at the entrance of the tent and at the foot of Mount Sinai while Moses receives the divine word (Ex 33,10 ). This man is the representation of this people who entrusts himself entirely to his God and lives his commandments as a sign of love and belonging to his Lord who is willing to give him a Life that does not perish in an arid desert: "I found you on a deserted land , in the horrendous solitude of a desert; I surrounded you, I took care of you, I have kept you like the apple of my eye" (Dt 32,10).

Jesus recognizes in this man that pure and loving "remnant of Israel" who tries to practice with all his heart and in the purest form the Covenant of the God of Israel with his people, for this reason the evangelist Mark tells us of a unique moment that Jesus : Jesus looking at him, felt deeply moved and full of love. How can one not feel love for this part of the people of Israel that is his people, in which he was born and for which he came? How can we not remember that the divine commandments are nothing but the sign of an abundantly good God who, out of pure mercy, collected this 'remnant' that could disappear in the face of the great and powerful peoples of the desert who want to destroy it and take advantage of their livestock, their children, their women with the risk of disappearing from the earth? A wonderful text from the prophet Ezekiel (16) connects us with the deep feelings of the prophet for his wife and that become revealing words of God's feelings for his people:

Ez 16, 1 "This word of Yahweh was spoken to me: 2 "Son of man, make Jerusalem see all her horrible deeds. 3 Tell her from me: You were born in Canaan and from there you came; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.

4 When you were born, the day you came into the world, they had not cut your cord, nor had they bathed you in water, nor rubbed you with salt, nor wrapped you in swaddling clothes. 5 No one had compassion on you, no one cared for you, not even out of pity; The day you came into the world, nobody was interested in you and they left you on the ground in the middle of the field.

6 Then I passed near you, I saw you struggling in the midst of your blood and I told you: Live you who lose your blood,

7 and grows like a grass of the field! Then you began to grow, you developed, you became a young girl, your chest firmed up and your hair grew; but you were naked, you had nothing. 8 Then I passed near you and saw you; It was the time of love, I threw my mantle over you, I covered your nakedness and I swore an oath to you. I made an alliance with you, word of Yahweh, and you became mine.

9 I bathed you with water, washed your blood, and perfumed you with oil. 10 I dressed you in embroidered garments, with fine leather shoes, I put a linen and silk veil on your head, 11 I adorned you with jewels, I put bracelets on your wrists, a necklace on your neck, 12 a ring in your nose, rings in your ears, and for your head a splendid diadem. 13 Your jewels were of gold and silver, your clothes of fine linen, made with precious fabrics all embroidered. You fed on fine flour, honey and oil, and you were magnificent: one day you were the queen. 14 Your beauty became famous among the nations: it was a perfect beauty thanks to my splendor that poured out on you, word of Yahweh ".

How not to feel the Love of that good God faithful to his Covenant from the desert until today? The Master loved him, recognized his fidelity to the Alliance. But he has something new and superior to offer you. That man in front of the Master's life discovers that something is missing, but if he already has Life, why does he feel that something is missing? The teacher has a life that in any way disturbs his religious and pre-established order of life, he has a diverse life, he is attracted to it, he loves it and for that reason he adds a plus: "one thing is missing for you"... Ah! One thing, just one thing, you have already done so much, you have practiced the commandments from your youth, the basis of salvation and of having eternal life, now you only need one thing... having a treasure in heaven.

A treasure in heaven? An unexpected answer to an unexpected question. A treasure mmmm interesting proposal... now it is not about fulfilling commandments, now it is about doing business, about obtaining a treasure in heaven, next to God, where there is no worm to corrupt it or the New York Stock Exchange to devalue it . This man is now ready to take a new leap in quality: if you not only consider me as a teacher, if you are capable of recognizing me as the Good One! like God! So don't just keep the commandments Come and follow me!

But the man left sad, says the gospel, because he had many goods. The divine master invites man to become his disciple, but this action implies the detachment of what would have prevented him personally from having that treasure in heaven: the treasures of earth. That's why he says:

Go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor, then come follow me! The rich man full of goods is not capable of assimilating this speech, he has so many things, so many goods, so much that he has acquired over time and with his effort, he has achieved a stable and fruitful position that allows him to live the commandments while being good.

But the biggest drama of this passage is that this rich man does not seem to be ready to accept having a treasure in heaven, why? Why don't you recognize in Jesus that Good God who makes an alliance with his people? Or why sclerocardia, the hardness of the heart is taking over his arteries, his entrails? In fact, the people of Israel changed their heart of flesh for one of stone. He hardened because he stopped trusting fully in his good God, and everything he himself had given him became his god...

ez. 16, 15 "But then you put your trust in your beauty, your fame allowed you to prostitute yourself; you lavished your charms on anyone who passed by and you left with him. 16. You took your clothes to decorate the High Places in which you prostituted yourself. 17. You took your gold and silver jewelry that I had given you and made statues of males with whom you played the whore. 18 You covered them with your embroidered garments and placed my oil and incense before them. 19 You presented them as an offering of pleasantness. smell the bread that I had given you, the flour, the oil, the honey with which I fed you - word of the Lord¨

They say that they hunt monkeys in Africa by making a hole in the trunk of a tree and putting rice inside, but the hole has to be the size of an empty hand so that it can easily enter; or a banana is placed inside a vase that also has a hole that the hand can easily enter.

The chimpanzee happily finds the rice or banana and sticks his hand in, but he can't take it out if he decides to keep it full, thus getting caught by the hunters. If the monkey decided to "drop" its treasure, it would surely save its life. poor monkey!

And we are exactly there

Today the Gospel places us in front of this rich man who is a beautiful mirror, where we can discover our messy hobbies, that is, where we can sincerely find ourselves or red-handed... or inside the hole in the tree or with the hand into the vase. But whether we like it or not, we are there, before a fundamental OPTION, whether we are single, married, religious, etc., the fundamental option is the determination to open our hands or keep them clenched so as not to let go of anything, it is the option to follow Christ and above all whether or not to let him be God in my life. 

It is not that riches are bad, it is not that having material things is a sin, it all depends on what they are used for, the problem is above all, what place do material things occupy in our hearts and where do they take us? and if and in what way these REPLACE Christ and our absolute trust in him. Money is always necessary but to what extent how much or how little we have is still the King, as Jose Alfredo Jimenez sings, to what extent do material things replace my full trust in divine providence that is not lacking? To what extent has gold, which is the king of metals, also become the king of metal hearts...? 

Today the gospel places us before the eye of the needle. The Eye of the Needle is actually a small door next to the main gate in a walled city. When the city gate was closed at night due to invasions or wars, the small side gate remained as the only point of entry or exit for the messengers.

In this way the armies could not enter the city with their horses, and if they wanted to conquer it they had to enter on foot and crouching, an untimely disadvantage because as soon as they entered with their heads lowered, they were decapitated.

The image came to refer in our languages, to the hole of the needle that in the same way indicates a hole so small that neither a horse nor a camel can pass through. 

This hole is one of the eyes of the spire of the gates of the ancient walled cities. This one in the photo is at the IX station of the Via Crucis in Jerusalem.

Tomorrow, Sunday in Rome, Monsignor Oscar Romero will be canonized, Archbishop of San Salvador who, being the head of the Church and living a quiet and comfortable life, decided to be on the side of the poor and defend them to the death without fear of reprisals from the government that He had already offered him protection: "I do not want protection from a government that is not giving protection to my people." He, being hierarch, passed through the narrow door or through the eye of the needle in a second conversion, and not only did he enter life, but he is taking with him a multitude of faithful to the true faith. 

And the great Paul VI, also called the big-hearted pope (μεγαλόκαρδος) will also be elevated to the altars, as the Patriarch of Constantinople Athenagora called him on January 5, 1964, a simple man but who did not allow his heart to harden, In fact, in the concluding homily of the Second Vatican Council, he said: "No one is a foreigner, no one is excluded or left out, no one is far away... each one is present, whatever the heart of the one they love says." A man who did not allow himself to be hardened by the rules, by time, by traditions, by the historical wounds between different churches. A healthy man, the man with a heart of flesh, a big heart...

Lord, teach me to see myself transparently, because nothing is hidden in the eyes of the one to whom we will have to give an account!

Teach me not to want to continue deceiving myself, with my fantasies of believing that you are the God of my life when I have other gods before whom I surrender with all my heart and adore them!

Lord, give me the grace to be transparent, especially with you and me, having nothing to hide, nothing to disguise, nothing to disguise! I want to end all the shadows that live in my soul so that you are the light of my soul and can be so transparent that whoever sees me sees you! That whoever finds me can feel your big heart in me.

Know me who is not afraid to say if I am stuck in the middle of the eye of the needle, but above all to know you and not be afraid of your tender and fixed gaze that directly guards me with that love that manages to tear me from my vases of bananas! , from my holes full of rice and from the needle eyes where I am stuck!

Teach me to drop my vases with rice or bananas, to open my fists to receive you! Teach me to sportively jump the eye of the needle knowing that there is a lifetime of love waiting for me in you!

He who sings prays twice

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