Jesus does not condemn wealth, but the attachment to wealth that divides families and causes wars: this was the focus of Pope Francis’ remarks to the faithful at Mass on Monday morning in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta.
Reflecting on the readings of the day that had just been proclaimed at Mass on Monday morning in the Santa Marta chapel, Pope Francis bluntly reminded the gathered faithful that we cannot serve two masters: either one serves God, or one serves wealth. Jesus, “is not against wealth as such,” but he warns against staking one’s safety in money – something he said risks, “turning religion into an insurance agency.” In addition, attachment to money is divisive, as illustrated by the Gospel tale of the “the two brothers arguing over the inheritance:”
“Let us consider how many families we know, whose members have fought, who are fighting, who don’t [even] say ‘Hello!’ to each other, who hate each other – all for an inheritance. This is just one of the cases: the love of family, love of children, siblings, parents – none of these is the most important thing – no, it’s money – and this destroys – even wars, wars that we see today: yes, sure there is an ideal [over which people fight], but behind that, there is money; money for arms dealers, the money of those who profit from the war. This, then, is [just] one family, but all of us, I’m sure, know at least one family so divided. Jesus is clear: ‘Be careful and stay away from all kinds of greed: it is dangerous.’ Greed: for, it gives us a security that is not true and it brings you to pray – yes, you can pray, go to church – but also have a heart that is attached [to material wealth], and that always ends badly.”
Jesus tells the parable of a rich man, “A good entrepreneur,” whose “fields had yielded an abundant harvest,” and who was, “full of riches,” and, “instead of thinking: ‘But I will share this with my workers, with my employees, that they also might have a little more for their families,’ thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, seeing that I have nowhere to put my crops? Ah, so I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones.’ More and more: the thirst that comes from attachment to riches never ends. If you have your heart attached to wealth – when you have so much – you want more. This is the god of the person who is attached to riches.”
Pope Francis went on to say that the road, which leads to salvation, is that of the Beatitudes. “The first is poverty of spirit,” which is not attached to riches that, if one has them, are to be placed in the service of others, “to share, to help many people to make their way.” The sign that tells us we have not fallen into “this sin of idolatry” is almsgiving, giving to those in need – and not giving merely of our abundance, but giving until it costs me “some privation” perhaps because “it is necessary for me. The Holy Father said, “That's a good sign: it means it that one’s love for God is greater than one’s attachment to wealth.” So there are three questions that we can ask ourselves:
“First question: ‘Do I give?’ Second: ‘How much do I give?’ Third question: ‘How do I give?’ Do I give as Jesus gives, with the caress of love, or as one who pays a tax? How do I give? ‘But father, what do you mean by that?’ When you help someone, do you look that person in the eye? Do you touch that person’s hand? Theirs is Christ’s own flesh, that person is your brother, your sister. At that moment you are like the Father who does not leave the birds of the air to go without food. With what love the Father gives! Let us ask God for the grace to be free of this idolatry, the attachment to wealth: let us ask the grace to look at Him, so rich in His love and so rich in generosity, in His mercy; and let us ask the grace to help others with the exercise of almsgiving, but as He does it. ‘But, Father, He has not let Himself be deprived of anything! Jesus Christ, being equal to God, deprived Himself of this: He lowered Himself, He made Himself nothing – [yes,] He too deprived Himself of something.”