When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
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Augustine of Hippo
Quaest. Ev., 1, 26: Whereas the rich are few in comparison of the multitude of the poor, we must suppose that the disciples understood all who wish for riches, as included in the number of the rich. By the word “beheld” them, the Evangelist conveys that He soothed their troubled soul by His merciful eye.
When the disciples heard, &c. Because there were few, and at that time scarcely any, who did not wish to be rich. For all were gasping after lucre, even as many gasp after it now. For as S. Augustine says upon this passage, "All who desire riches are counted among the rich."
But Jesus beheld. Greek, ÎµÌ‰Ï€Î¹Î²Î»ÎÏˆÎ±Ï‚. Jesus looking upon his disciples, regarding them with a benign countenance, calmed the timidity and anxiety of their minds. So Chrysostom. With men: it is impossible to a rich man by human strength to obtain salvation, for he is entangled in his riches. And this salvation is a supernatural blessing, which we cannot obtain without similar supernatural powers of grace. But to God all things are possible, because God is the Author and the Fountain both of nature and grace and glory, and He so provides that by grace we should easily and gravely overcome all the difficulties and hindrances of nature: and, which pertains to the subject now in hand, He brings it about that r...
They wondered very much. The apostles wondered how any person could be saved, not because all were rich, but because the poor were also included, who had their hearts and affections fixed on riches. (St. Augustine and Nicholas of Lyra.)
Ap. Anselm: The Lord took occasion from this rich man to hold discourse concerning the covetous; “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you”.
ap. Anselm: It is explained otherwise; That at Jerusalem there was a certain gate, called, The needle’s eye, through which a camel could not pass, but onits bended knees, and after its burden had been taken off; and so the rich should not be able to pass along the narrow way that leads to life, till he had put off the burden of sin, and of riches, that is, ceasing to love them.
Mor., xxxv, 16: Or, by the rich man He intends any one who is proud, by the camel he denotes the right humility. The camel passed through the needle’s eye, when our Redeemer through the narrow way of suffering entered in to the taking upon Him death; for that passion was as a needle which pricked the body with pain. But the camel enters the needle’s eye easier than the rich man enters the kingdom of heaven; because if He had not first shown us by His passion the form of His humility, our proud stiffness would never have bent itself to His lowliness.
To have riches is no sin; but moderation is to be observed in our havings. For how shall we communicate to the necessities of the saints, if we have not out of what we may communicate?.
It is a dangerous toil to become rich; and guiltlessness occupied in increasing its wealth has taken upon itself a sore burden; the servant of God gains not the things of the world, clear of the sins of the world. Hence is the difficulty of entering the kingdom of heaven.
What then did Christ say? “How difficult it will be for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.” He was not criticizing money itself but the wills of those who are taken captive by it. If it will be difficult for the rich, how much more so for the avaricious! For if stinginess with one’s own wealth is an impediment to gaining the kingdom, think how much fire is amassed for taking someone else’s. But why does he say that it is hard for the rich man to enter the kingdom, to the disciples, who were poor and had nothing? He teaches them not to be ashamed of their poverty and, as it were, gives the reason why he did not allow them to possess anything. After saying it is hard, he also shows them that it is impossible, and not simply impossible but even in an exaggerated way impossible. He shows this from the comparison of the camel and the needle: “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Hence Christ demonstrates that...
And wherefore are the disciples troubled, being poor, yea, exceedingly poor? Wherefore then are they confounded? Being in pain about the salvation of the rest, and having a great affection for all, and having already taken upon themselves the tender bowels of teachers. They were at least in such trembling and fear for the whole world from this declaration, as to need much comfort.
What He spoke was not condemning riches in themselves, but those who were enslaved by them; also encouraging His disciples that being poor they should not be ashamed by reason of their poverty.
Having said that it was hard for a rich man to eater into the kingdom of heaven, He now proceeds to show that it is impossible, “And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for arich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.”.
The Gentile souls are likened to the deformed body of the camel, in which is seen the humpback of idolatry; for the knowledge of God is the exaltation of the soul. The needle is the Son of God, the fine point of which is His divinity, and the thicker part what He is according to His incarnation. But itis altogether straight and without turning; and through the womb of His passion, the Gentiles have entered into life eternal. By this needle is sewn the robe of immortality; it is this needle that has sewn the flesh to the spirit,...
Whence in Mark the Lord expounding the meaning of this saying, speaks thus, “Itis hard for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” They trust in riches, who build all their hopes on them.
This must not be so understood as though it were possible for God to cause that the rich, the covetous, the avaricious, and the proud should enter into the kingdom of heaven; but to cause him to be converted, and so enter.
The disciples, being compassionate, did not ask this question for their own sake, for they were poor, but for all men. The Lord therefore teaches us not to gauge salvation by human weakness, but by Godâ€™s power. If one only begins to cease from greed, he will advance to reducing his excess, and from there he will proceed to eliminating even his necessities, and thus he will be prospered along the way by God acting in collaboration with him.