A Camel’s Tale
“For men this is impossible, but for God all things are possible."
About 2 years ago my niece Catherine, an avid animal lover, turned to me and asked “Uncle Chuck, did you have any pets when you lived in New York City?” Being in somewhat of a playful mood and not wanting to disappoint her, I casually ad-libbed a lengthy story about owning a pet camel named Claude which I kept in a stable about 8 or 9 blocks away near Radio City Music Hall. Claude, I explained, starred in the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, making his dramatic appearance during the Nativity Scene at the very end of the show. After fielding the typical questions one might expect from a child on the heels of such an outlandish tale (what did Claude eat, one hump or two, do you still talk to him on the phone, etc) she appeared to be satisfied with my answers and would periodically ask me from time to time how Claude was doing.
One day however, after apparently telling this story to her skeptical friends at school, she came home and declared “Uncle Chuck, I think you’re making up this story about Claude the Camel” to which I replied “Catherine, just because something might seem unlikely doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible.” She looked at me suspiciously while proceeding to eat enough Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food to feed half of Vermont. Four or five weeks later, a friend of mine, walking along 5th Ave on her way to work, happened to see 2 camels in a makeshift stable outside of Radio City Music Hall, one of those “only in New York City” moments that rivaled the parading of the elephants along 7th Avenue back in the days before political correctness, video games, and smart phones killed off the circus. My friend posted the photo on Facebook, I took a screen grab of said photo and upon seeing my niece 2 or 3 days later, showed it to her and said “Claude says hello.” She smiled and asked “When can we visit Claude in NYC?” My response to that question is a topic for another reflection.
So with camels, impossibilities, and all these other things swirling about in today’s Gospel, let’s take a look at an oftentimes overlooked line in this passage; the “lesson within the lesson” if you will.
Since many of us, your paycheck-to-paycheck living author included, are not faced with the burden of multimillion dollar bank accounts, we don’t necessarily need to lay awake at night looking for ways to “widen the eye of the needle.” But as our 1st Reading (Ezekiel 28:1-10) teaches us, the consequences of elevating ourselves to god-like levels of esteem can be deadly. Literally.
Today’s Gospel on the other hand (Matthew 19:20-23) provides us with a sobering reality check. When pressed with the question that we all in fact should be asking, “Who can be saved?” Jesus flatly responds “For man it is impossible.” Yikes.
“But” he adds “for God all things are possible.” It would seem that our role in this partnership is therefore the pursuit of a life rooted in the Commandments, the Sacraments, Prayer, forgiveness, patience, the accumulation of wisdom and so on.
Perhaps it is today’s Gospel Acclimation that sums things up for us when it declares “Jesus Christ became poor, although he was rich. So that by his poverty you might become rich. May we too always seek the fullness and richness of the love of God and the subsequent desire to do His will over the fleeting trifles of this world, so that we may one day reside in the Kingdom that has no end.