This coming Sunday’s readings (August 7, 2016) and for a few weeks following the Lord Jesus talks about riches, treasure, the rich and the poor. He’s talking about what is truly valuable and what is passing. This is in stark contrast to the way that the world sees things. In our culture and in many other cultures around the world material wealth is far more important than anything else. We are a consumer society and we are a culture that throws things away at an increasing rate. We rarely take time to repair anything. We just toss it and get something new.
But Jesus does say that the accumulation of wealth is good, sometimes. When is it good to accumulate wealth? When that wealth is to be used for the good of others. This is sometimes mistakenly called “socialism”. But there is a huge difference. Socialism forces people to hand over wealth to the secular state. Jesus is telling us to lovingly and freely give to people or organizations which help the poor, educate people, give care to the sick and the dying and give shelter to the homeless. This isn’t forced, it’s done freely because the giver wants to do it in thanksgiving for all of God’s many gifts.
Imagine, if you will, that you belong to a big family. In that family the father and or mother of the family is demanding of everyone in the family to give part of their salary or daily wage to a community account. There are no excuses. You must put money in. The money is used to help other members of the family, but you also see that the person in charge is living a lavish lifestyle. You resent having to give your hard earned money and try your best to separate yourself from it all. But many other members of the family prevent you from doing so. This isn’t a family based in love. It’s a family run by a tyrant.
Now imagine that you belong to another big family. In that family the father or the mother encourage everyone to put money into a general account to help anyone in need. Nobody knows who puts in how much, and the donations are always voluntary. When someone in the family is sick or has an emergency or there is a special situation the father or mother quietly takes care of the problem with the money in the account. That person lives like everyone else. The entire system is based on love.
Are you more willing to be part of the first family or the second? I would bet doughnuts to dollars that you’d want nothing to do with that first family, but you’d willingly participate in the second because of love. This is the difference between what the world teaches and what Jesus teaches. We are to give from love, not from being forced to give. Mandatory donations are not really donations at all, but burdens. And when the money is used on lavish living there is resentment. I believe that’s why Pope Francis decided to live in a room in a dormitory rather than in the Papal Apartments. I’ve been inside the Papal Apartments and they are not lavish. But they appear to be because they are in a position where it looks like they are huge and beautifully decorated. He has rejected even the appearance of lavish living for the good of the entire Church. I respect him a lot for that.
But now, what do we do when we are in the situation of a loving family? Do we say “Well, I can just donate only the minimum”? Or are we generous with our gift? The Gospel tells us what happens to the stingy donor and what happens with the generous person. Read up on it and think to yourself how happy stingy and selfish people really are, as opposed to generous and openhearted people.
This is your choice. You will live eternally by the choices you make.