The Problem with Riches

We have walked with Jesus to discover more deeply His deepest desire for us, and now, having received His Spirit, He walks within us to lead and guide us to fulfill our mission as his disciples.  The road to Christ is not an easy road, but we must rejoice, “although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7). The purpose of life in Christ is to receive His love and to give it to others. Thus, we serve the poor not primarily to serve the poor but to receive the Lord’s love in the poor and to give His love to them. Because life in Christ is a life of love, trials are often the best blessings, since our love for the Lord can grow deeper in sufferings. When we realize that love, not self, is the center of life, we embrace the cross and rejoice in giving everything to the Lord. In the context of love, a compromised, lukewarm Gospel is nauseating. Christianity makes sense in the light of love, and only in the light of love.

In today’s Gospel passage Jesus is approached by a young man who has many possessions. I don’t think one has to be Bill Gates or any other billionaire to illustrate this young man’s state in life.  I have come to discover that possessions in a New Testament biblical sense can include my fundamental relationships with our spouses, parents, siblings, and best friends.  For others it might also include children and grandchildren.  Possessions will include the roles that one has.  Possessions include the good opinions or status that any of us cherishes and protects; the political and social rights we take for granted, and the physical health we may enjoy, the research we have engaged and the books we may have authored.  Without ever getting to cars, houses, and bank accounts, we all already have long lists of material ties that possess us as much as we possess them.  So we can easily put ourselves in the person of the young man who approaches Jesus even if we can’t claim to have kept all the commandments from our early childhood years as he did.

This young man who had the best the world could offer – wealth and security – came to Jesus because he lacked one thing. He wanted the kind of lasting peace and happiness which money could not buy him. The answer he got, however, was not what he was looking for. He protested that he kept all the commandments; but Jesus spoke to the trouble in his heart. One thing kept him from giving himself whole-heartedly to God. While he lacked nothing in material goods, he was nonetheless possessive of what he had. He placed his hope and security in what he possessed. So when Jesus challenged him to make God his one true possession and treasure, he became dismayed. This story becomes a challenge to us, since like him; we are being invited every day to become detached from the world’s offerings. Jesus’ reaction to any refusal is sadness, as he offers us all the treasures of heaven.  We also need to pray that, in the present crises facing the countries of the world, our leaders do not neglect the plight of those caught in the famine of Africa in their quest for power. But there may also be some poor people who have the mentality of the rich. And then, the desire for riches creates in them dependence and also makes them become slaves of consumerism. They have no time to dedicate themselves to the service of neighbour. Keeping these problems in mind, problems of persons, of countries, let us read and meditate on the text of the rich man.

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