Pass­ing through the nee­dle’s eye

Cebu Daily News - - OPINION - by Simeon Dum­dum Jr.

As a child I as­so­ci­ated camels with Christ­mas, in par­tic­u­lar with the Three Kings, whom they trans­ported across vast deserts to of­fer their gifts of gold, frank­in­cense and myrrh to the In­fant Je­sus. De­pic­tions of the Three Kings ador­ing the Child are in­com­plete without these drom­e­daries stand­ing by.

Later I would come across their pho­to­graphs in mag­a­zines, es­pe­cially the Na­tional Geo­graphic. They fur­ther im­planted them­selves in my con­scious­ness with a brand of cig­a­rettes that car­ried their name and the catch­phrase, “I’d walk a mile for a camel,” which I found odd. Shouldn’t one in­stead ride for a mile on a camel? (But then I was a non-smoker, and later, hav­ing my­self tried a few smokes, I sur­mised that I could write a mem­oir that be­gan, “For one brief, shin­ing mo­ment, I had a Camel.”)

I fi­nally saw ac­tual camels when with friends the wife and I vis­ited a zoo in a north­ern prov­ince. In fact I wrote a poem in which I de­scribed them as fol­lows-

They’re crea­tures of the desert,

Whose sands run in the hour

Glass of in­fin­ity.

In­deed, Je­sus, in a way, as­so­ci­ated the camel with heaven. He used the an­i­mal to il­lus­trate the huge ob­sta­cle that riches put in the path of those who wanted to en­ter it.

In his Gospel, Mark nar­rates that, while Je­sus was set­ting out on a jour­ney, a man ran up to him and asked what he should do to in­herit eter­nal life. Je­sus told him to fol­low the com­mand­ments, which the man said he had done from his youth. Hear­ing this, Je­sus looked at him with ten­der­ness and ad­vised, “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have trea­sure in heaven; then come, fol­low me.” Mark writes that the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many pos­ses­sions. Com­ment­ing on this, Je­sus told his dis­ci­ples, “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.”

Je­sus’ words do not trou­ble me too much be­cause I am a poor man. But re­ally they should, for the other day, see­ing that the lot­tery prize had reached a bil­lion pe­sos, I yielded to the temp­ta­tion to buy a ticket. Per­haps that makes me a rich man, not in fact but in de­sire, and, al­though I promised most any­one around me a gen­er­ous share of the money if I should win (and I did not), I find a cov­etous­ness within me which is in­ap­pro­pri­ate for own who seeks to fol­low Christ.

(Come to think of it, the Three Kings used a bril­liant strat­egy. They rode on the camels to make, in the gold, frank­in­cense and myrrh, a gift of them­selves to the King of kings and the Lord of Lords. They made an en­try to­gether with their an­i­mals.)

As for my­self, I think of the camels in the zoo with not a lit­tle envy. Be­cause I find it dif­fi­cult to re­nounce my love of wealth, and God will sooner let the drom­e­daries pass through the nee­dles’ eye than al­low me to en­ter the king­dom of heaven.

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