The prophet Amos was a simple shepherd who demanded justice for the poor. In our first reading he condemns the wealthy swindlers who cause the ordinary people’s ruin. This links with the Gospel where Christ says, “you cannot serve God and money”. Lets confess ways we let lust for money undermine our love of neighbor…
You know St Francis’s story. Son of a rich merchant, in youth he lived it up. But suddenly God entered his life and he saw how empty his affluent lifestyle was. He gave away riches and clothes from his father’s shop to feed and clothe the poor. One Sunday in church his father asked him to return all that. Francis took off his clothes, gave them to his father and walked naked from the church to serve God in the poor, and share their lot. He wore a rough robe tied with a cord, begged from the rich to help the poor, and lived a holy life. He was joined by 10,000 rich young men who found joy in poverty for Christ, and serving humanity.
With Francis, free from slavery to possessions, they worked for a truer, juster world and church. For in his day even bishops served wealth and grand buildings rather than God’s flock. At his conversion, God showed Francis a church in ruins and said “Francis rebuild my church”. He went around restoring ruined churches, until he realized that what God wanted was restoration of the wider spiritual church which, due to wealth, lost sight of its call to be God’s saving voice to all, notably the poor.
And this is perhaps the key temptation each human being faces; to slavishly serve false gods of self, money, pleasure, fame and power, abandoning God and the duty to help the needy. Even Christ resisted this lure in the desert, knowing the first commandment is the first for this reason: “I’m the Lord your God you shall not have false god before me”. The main false God people destroy their souls for, in every age, is money. And Christ’s warning is so apt for today, when individuals and faceless global companies shaft the environment and the poor for higher profit margins.
In such a secular money-worshipping world our baptismal call is to be counterwitnesses, pointing souls to the real riches of faith and sharing of earth’s resources. Of course money isn’t evil as such, a good standard of living is God’s will for all. But making riches one’s whole focus, leaving no room for the things of the soul or basic humanity, can be deadly; rich famous people commit suicide everyday. More lasting happiness comes from what builds the soul: love, faith, right living, philanthropy.
Satan tempted Christ in the desert to abandon the cross for the ruthless self-serving pursuit of wealth and power, “all kingdoms of the world I’ll give you, if you bow down and worship me”. Like Francis, Christ chose instead the cross of humble service of God and humanity. To be truly Christians we must do the same; at home, in society, our country and the world. For the key to faith is charity. Thereby we defeat Satan’s wiles and shape God’s kingdom in Christ, a world of justice and equality for all.
But strong faith is needed to do this now, for economics is the new fetish. A politician interviewed recently about “cutbacks” was asked; “but what about modifying these in the interest of the poor?”. “That’s fine”, he replied, “but it doesn’t make for good economics”. Surely economics are for people not the other way around? But big money always serves itself. Francis abandoned such folly and after a thousand years still inspires us. Our new Pope took his name and shares the same option for the poor. Both knew that hard money values fade to ashes at last, leaving us empty inside. But to Christ, a poor vagrant preacher, belongs the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever, amen.
So as God’s people, avoiding the trap of making money our all, and called to charitable godly lives, lets profess our faith..
Prayers of the Faithful
And as the people of God lets pray for the things that we need.
For the Pope and bishops of the church; like Francis, may they convince people to share earth’s resources, and lift up the poor.
For civil leaders, may they not put money and economic doctrine before the care of their citizens, especially those in need.
For our youth, that like those young people who flocked to Francis, tired of the greed, corruption and godlessness of the age, they may serve God and the poor with generous hearts..
For ourselves in our homes and work places, that we may not put jobs and money-making before our families, but give them our love and time, so that their nurture may not be neglected in any way..
For the sick, aged, lonely and poverty stricken; like Christ and Francis, may we find time for them, and build a just world..
For the dead, all their money and possessions of no more use in the grave, they may find a fuller life with God by the help of our prayers, a great work of charity..
Avoiding excessive greed also leaves us free to appreciate nature and the world around us. St.Francis was totally in tune with animals, birds and the beauty of creation. He’s usually depicted with a bird on his shoulder. Lets find time from the scrabble for riches for our children and feeling the good earth under our feet, lest, as the poet says, “getting and spending”, we “lay waste our powers”. Mary usually appears in beautiful places, linking nature, beauty and godliness. I feel that every time I climb Croagh Patrick. Lets ask her to help us find more time for nature and the things of the soul..Hail Mary