This past Sunday’s Gospel presents a huge challenge to the wealthy. Since everything that we have begins as a gift of God — be it talent, good health, industriousness, or inheritance —those who have many possessions would sin not only against temperance if they are over-indulgent, but also against justice for not rendering to the poor what they need for sustenance. This is one way of loving our neighbor as ourselves: we must give alms as we are able and we must support the missions and our local parish or monastery. These things are commandments not suggestions.
In preparing an article I wrote on Our Lady’s Magnificat and the verse, “And the rich he hath sent away empty,” I remember one author, a priest, who commented that there are many rich Catholics who cannot forget the poverty of their parents and grandparents and they dread it as if it were a disease. This dread leads them to horde and save money for no other reason than fear of losing it. Some, he noted, are so attached to their money (not necessarily extravagance, but fat bank accounts) that they would cut off their hand rather than write a serious check for a needy charity. Others crave applause when they give; they’ll give to their alma maters; they’ll endow non-profit institutions and get something named in their honor, but they will pass by the Samaritan begging on a sidewalk. Don’t misunderstand, I am not criticizing the system per se, especially when it comes to giving to morally upright Catholic hospitals for example, just the accidental motives behind the gift, the impersonal electronics involved in the transaction and the standardized kudos.
How hard it is for a rich man not to let his left hand know what he right hand is doing and to give magnanimously, without fanfare, to good charities that are doing God’s work. On the other hand, I know many generous people who, rich and poor, give solely for love of God and neighbor and, yes, they seek a reward, not in this life but in the next. These people have been an inspiring example to me.
Asia News: ”It will be very difficult but not impossible for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Before the Angelus, Benedict XVI spoke about Jesus’ warning to the young man mentioned in today’s Gospel. In front of 30,000 people in St Peter’s Square, he also cited the examples of those “who used their wealth in an evangelical way, reaching sainthood. Let us think only about Saint Francis, Saint Elizabeth of Hungary and Saint Charles Borromeo.” Read more from the Pope’s address here.