Tuesday, August 20, 2013

“By what you get, you make a living; what you give, however, makes a life”

“Love is not patronizing and charity isn't about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same -- with charity you give love, so don't just give money but reach out your hand instead."― Mother Teresa (A Simple Path)

Gospel Text: (MT 19:23-30)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich
to enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Again I say to you,
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.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said,
“Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For men this is impossible,
but for God all things are possible.”
Then Peter said to him in reply,
“We have given up everything and followed you.
What will there be for us?”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you
that you who have followed me, in the new age,
when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory,
will yourselves sit on twelve thrones,
judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
And 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,
and will inherit eternal life.
But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

There's a story that an African priest tells about how hunters catch monkeys in his country that illustrates this central truth very well. The hunters start by slicing a coconut in two and hollowing it out. In one half of the shell they cut a hole just big enough for a monkey's hand to pass through; in the other they place a large orange. Then they tie the two halves together, hang the coconut from a tree, and retire into the bushes to wait. Sooner or later a monkey swings by, with his superior olfactory capabilities detects the smell of an orange inside the coconut, and slips his hand through the hole trying to extract his prize. Naturally he fails. While the monkey is struggling with the orange, the hunters approach and capture the monkey by throwing a net over it. As long as the monkey keeps its fist wrapped around the orange, the monkey is trapped. The animal is not smart enough to realize that he cannot have both the orange and his freedom. He could save himself simply by letting go of the orange. But the animal is trapped by his own greed.

No matter what tax bracket we're in, all of us have similar “oranges” that we need to let go of in order to live by faith.

"The love of money," St. Paul tells us, "is the root of all evil." It's not the money itself that is the problem, but the fact that it comes to possess us rather than the other way around. Pope Francis has been speaking out forcefully since the beginning of his pontificate about what he calls the "ferocious idolatry of money" that corrupts our relationships with God, with others, and with the material world, leading to a "spiritual worldliness" that places our faith, hope and love in material securities rather than in God. Rather than true worship, the cult of money just reinvents the worship of the golden calf of old.

That's why, to live by faith in God, we have to be willing to let go of our “oranges”, because we can't really fit through the door of faith if we continue to grasp on to them.

Remember, wealth, per se, is not bad; its origin is if it was unjustly acquired, if it is selfishly employed without bearing in mind the needy, if it closes our heart to the true spiritual values (where there is no need of God).

We cannot serve both God and mammon. Either we leave our attachments to “mammon” in order to pass through the door of faith into Christ's kingdom or we hold on to the “mammon”, like the Rich Young Man from yesterday’s gospel (MT 19:16-22) and remain outside.

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