Today’s readings touch our times, they ask us to put our trust in God rather than wealth. That, as our first reading says, is where true riches is. In the gospel the rich young man rejects Christ’s call because he’s a wealthy man. Let’s confess ways we too put money or worldly concerns before God and what’s right..
You know that Abba song “Money, Money, Money, in a rich man’s world”. Is it a rich man’s world? Is getting and spending the whole meaning of life? Certainly, even the once socialist countries, who made a living out of condemning capitalist greed, seemed to have also succumbed and jumped on the money train, where the rich man reigns as king. Even the corruption of the former Soviet Bloc, seems to show that the ideal of equal sharing is a pipe dream, that the world is made up of winners or losers in a rat race where money is the prize and as the song says, “the rats are winning. But is there still another way, a better way?
That there is, is the point of today’s Gospel, where the rich man is asked to follow Christ, to walk away from slavery to wealth to true freedom in service of God and humanity, especially the poor. But like many in today’s west of liberal capitalism, he cannot break his chains. Christ looked at him as a person, and offered him a more fulfilling role; “give your riches to the poor and follow me”. He wanted the young man to escape from enslaving greed; for if everyone did this we’d have a perfect world, free from all poverty and oppression. But the young man, trapped by wealth and a related lifestyle, couldn’t break free; though deep down he knew Christ was right, for he went away “sorrowful”.
Is this the state of many in the Celtic Tiger aftermath, still trapped by the false gods of big houses and vulgar shows of wealth. Maybe! But the recent recession at least showed the uselessness and dangers of total greed and worldliness. Maybe it will bring people back to earth again, to faith, justice and more enduring humane values in the Lord, however difficult this may be in an age when the cult of economics seems to have replaced that of justice. I always thought economics should serve the people, but now it seems to be an end in itself, a false god to whom all is sacrificed; Schools, hospital beds closed to rescue rich foreign bondholders and toxic banks; sense is out the window.
That’s the kind of vain worldly wisdom our scripture attacks. Christ doesn’t say that working hard for a good standard of living for our family is wrong. What Christ warns against is making this world and riches and enslaving master. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul, the Gospel says elsewhere. The right Christian attitude towards earthly goods is to use them to serve others and God. “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s”, Christ says. We all have worldly jobs, and we must have enough for our children. But we mustn’t work for material things until they take us over in body and soul. We must also build treasure in heaven, a treasure that won’t fail us.
In this, Christ offers an even higher way of perfection to some, monks and nuns who reject property for a higher vocation of prayer and holiness. But even Christians in the world should be free from greed, sharing surplus goods with the poor. Thereby they gain inner freedom and treasure in heaven. The most enslaved man is the one constantly worrying about his wealth, with no time for God or things of the soul. But any day his soul may be required of him. So let’s re-evaluate our priorities and follow Christ the poor nomad who gave up everything to serve God and humanity on the cross, and yet to whom belongs the kingdom, the power and the Glory forever and ever, amen. So as God’s people called from soul-destroying greed to faith, inner wisdom, freedom and generous charity we make our profession of faith..
Prayers of the Faithful
And as his people we pray for the things that we really need.
For the church and its leaders, may they continue to remind people that man does not live on bread alone.
For our leaders here in Ireland and in the EU that in serving economics they may not neglect to serve the spiritual as well as material needs of those they govern, especially the poor.
For ourselves, may we escape the chains of riches, with time for God and deeper more lasting goods that enable us to serve our children and the needy, and grow in freedom unto eternal glory.
For the sick, the lonely, the aged and those among us who need our care, that we may find the time from getting and spending to be there for them, and so bear witness to free Christian hearts.
For the dead, especially those who have died recently in our parish and for all those whose anniversaries occur at this time.
We ask all these things through Christ our lord, from whom all good and holy things come, amen.
There’s a story told of early Christians. They could save themselves from the lions if they abandoned Christ and sacrificed to the Emperor. For this they received much money. One Christian took the cash. As he watched a fellow Christian going to death, a soldier said, “aren’t you lucky, you’re alive and wealthy while they’re dead meat”. “No”, he said, “they’re the ones who are alive, I’m the one who’s dead”. He’d sold his soul and knew it was a deeper death. Like that man we too can sacrifice everything, even our souls, for filthy lucre, which Paul calls the root of all evil. Let’s ask Mary to help us avoid that trap..Hail Mary.