Class: 
Cycle C: Eighteenth Sunday of the Liturgical Year

 

BE ON YOUR GUARD AGAINST GREED OF ANY KIND

 

Every day, all around the world, there are quarrels taking place in families on account of inheritances. How often this problem is creeping in families that seem to be very united! Brothers and sisters get angry with one another or stop speaking to one another, because the family inheritance was not divided to suit their interests. As long as the father was alive, there was no problem. But the moment he died, the individual interests of everyone in the family came out in the open. Divisions arose because of money. Even in the time of Jesus, the same problem was rampant. One day, a man came to him and asked him to settle his money problem.

 

 

  • A person’s life does not depend on riches

 

The answer that Jesus gives us goes right to the heart of the problem: “Be on your guard against any kind of greed!” These words are very much in line with many other sayings of the Gospel in which Jesus speaks about money and riches.

Remember what he said to the rich young man who asked him what to do to inherit eternal life: “Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” (Mk 10: 21). To the crowds who came to listen to him on the mount he said: “Blessed are you poor” (Lk. 6: 20). And to all of us he says: “You cannot serve both God and money” (Lk. 16: 13).

Some of you may know how Saint Francis of Assisi put these words into practice in his life. He was from a very rich family and used to give alms generously to the poor, to the great scandal of his parents. One day, he came with his father to the bishop of Assisi and put on the clothes of the poor. From that day onwards, he began to be known as the “poverello” – or the poor man – of Assisi.

In giving you the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, I don’t want to say that we should all do like him. His was a special vocation. But each one of us has to find out how he/she should put these words of Christ into practice. Saint Paul gives us a hint when he says: “Those whose life is buying things should live as though they had nothing of their own” (1 Cor. 7: 30).

 

  • How to make use of money?

 

You may say: “What should we do concretely? We have to earn our living; we have to bring up our children; and for that we need money.”

 

It is evident that we all need money to live. And to earn that money we have to work. Saint Paul goes even to the extent of saying: “Whoever refuses to work is not allowed to eat” (2 Thess. 3: 10).

Aparicio y Guijarro from Chile found himself in complete economic crisis, having nothing left but a few pesetas. To make matters worse, he had to take care of some unavoidable expenses. One of his acquaintances came to see him and said that he had been unable to pay the rent and was going to be evicted. He didn’t know where to go with his wife and children and was in a very difficult situation. Aparicio was perplexed for a moment. Then he got up and, opening a table drawer, took out all he had. “That’s all I have and we will divide it like brothers.” He gave him half, which was about the month’s rent owed. The man’s gratitude was boundless.

However, the next day the man came back and said disgustedly, “Aparicio, I have come to say that yesterday you palmed off on me this counterfeit peseta.” Aparicio looked at him, turned red with rage, got up and went away. As he was telling this story to some of his friends, one interrupted him and said: “If that had happened to me, I would have broken his neck with a chair and made him swallow the peseta.” – “Well,” replied Aparicio, “I didn’t break his neck; I exchanged his peseta.”   (Anon)

It is normal to foresee for the difficult days that may come. So, a certain amount of money and material goods are needed to fulfil our responsibilities in life. For example, the parents have a responsibility to prepare for the future of their children. But the best way of fulfilling these responsibilities, I found it expressed in a prayer that I read in the Bible. This prayer was composed by a man who never knew Jesus. We find it in the book of Proverbs:

 

 

“I ask you, Lord, to let me have two things before I die:

Keep me from lying, and let me be neither rich nor poor.

So, give me only as much food as I need.

If I have more, I might say that I do not need you.

But if I am poor, I might steal and bring disgrace on my God.”

(Prov. 30: 7-9)

 

 

This prayer reminds us that to live in misery or utter poverty is not human. On the other hand, we can easily be tempted to put our heart in riches and money and become greedy. That is why we can say that Jesus’ parable today is not about need, but about greed. Greed is like a fire: the more wood you pile on it, the hungrier it becomes. For greedy people there is no such thing as enough. It is then that Jesus warns us: “You cannot serve God and money” (Lk. 16: 13).

An old woman died in an asylum. A charitable person had shown an interest in her and had visited her frequently, leaving her a gold coin each time. The old lady had thus amassed quite a sum of money which she carried with her day and night in a purse tied around her neck. Although her life was hanging by a thread, money to her was like a god. It was necessary to wait until she was in a coma to remove that purse.

Today, you can get anything with money. If you have money, there is no problem. You have only to pay for it and you get what you want. All the means are good as long as they bring in a good profit. An Italian proverb illustrates that statement beautifully. It says: “Money opens all doors except the ones of heaven.”

But tell me: how much do you have to pay to buy love? Not the cheap love of infidelity, but real human love?  Could it be that you will never be able to get it with money?

Mother Teresa used to say: “People who really love each other fully and truly, they are the happiest people in the world; and we see that with our very poor people. They love their children and they love their home. They may have very little, they may have nothing, but they are happy people.”

 

Tell me: how much do you have to pay to acquire freedom of the heart? That freedom which gives you peace? Could it be that you will never be able to get that interior peace with money?

Tell me: how much do you have to pay to get a good intelligence? That intelligence that you find even in the poor people? Could it be that no one will ever be able to buy that intelligence, even with 10 crores of Rupees?

A boy went to a lady’s house to sell some berries he had picked. “Yes, I’ll buy some,” said the lady, as she took the pail and went inside. Without concern for the berries, the boy stayed at the door, whistling to some birds perched in a cage. “Don’t you want to come in and see that I don’t take more than I should? How do you know that I won’t cheat you?”she asked. The boy responded from the porch, “I’m not worried. Besides, you would get the worst of it.” – “Get the worst of it,” said the lady. “What do you mean by that?” – “Oh, I would only lose a few berries, but you would make yourself a thief.”

It’s good to be reminded that there are things in life which are free. You don’t have to pay for them.

 

  • Ready to share?

 

I think that the best way to put the words of Jesus into practice when he says, “Be on your guard against any kind of greed,” is to be ready to share with others.

One day, a mother told me the following incident. It was usual, in her family, to save money during Advent in order to have a good celebration at Christmas. The feast was approaching and a good amount of money had already been set aside. Suddenly, they heard that an accident had happened to a child in their neighbours’ house; the child had been hurt by a car while playing on the street, and he was in serious condition. They knew also that the father was unemployed. So, the family would surely have difficulty to pay the expenses for medical surgery. So, this lady told me: “We discussed the matter, my husband and I, and with the agreement of our children we gave all the money we had saved to that family.”

A gesture like that makes you think! I feel that this is one of the best ways to put the message of today’s Gospel into practice. Whatever our resources may be, we have to learn how to share with others. In other words, we have to learn how to love our brothers and sisters more than money. The invitation to “go and sell everything you own” and follow Christ is not addressed to all. However, all of us are called to “be on (our) guard against any kind of greed.”

A few years ago, a man I knew was dying in the hospital. His children were all around him. They were young and all had a bright future before them. Two were students in medicine, one was preparing to become an engineer and two others were planning to become lawyers. A few hours before he died, the old man said to them: “Don’t fall in love with money.”

I conclude by repeating the same words: “Don’t fall in love with money, and you will find it easier to fall in love with God and your neighbour.”

 

Author: 
Hervé Morissette, csc