We priests get back a hundred times what we gave up.

Tuesday, 8/21/12

Jesus said, “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.” Some preachers give a simple explanation of Our Lord’s words. They tell us that Jerusalem had one narrow gate called the Needle’s Eye, and laden camels had a hard time getting through it. The trouble with that explanation is that Jerusalem had no such gate. The only way to explain Our Lord’s words is to realize that he liked using hyperbole or exaggerations.

Last week I experienced what Jesus meant when he said, “Everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more.”

Through my twenties and thirties I worked in a desperately poor Korean county as a member of the Irish Columban Fathers. Forty years ago I left them to work in Florida, but last week they invited me to Ireland to join in honoring their older priests. Over there I joined up with Father Frank Mannion, an Irish classmate from sixty years ago. We were neighbors in Korea, and when I came to Florida Frank went to sere the Koreans in California.

Frank  was a famous football forward for Galway, but after a stroke he had to go back to our old seminary in Ireland. He kept telling me the same things, “Tom, these men are so nice, so, gentle, so friendly.”

People who got to know Father Jim Corry at St. Paul’s or Monsignor Pat Madden at Sacred Heart know how warm those Irish priests can be. My friend Frank Mannnion once told me he could get by without a wife of his own, but not having his own children was always a sorrow to him. But in that gathering last week he and I felt we were given back a  hundred times more family than we ever gave up.

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