Focus on the things of the spiritSunday Readings Lecturas y Comentarios Sunday Readings Bible StudyPrayer of the HoursBurning Question: Does God want you to be rich?"
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Aug. 1, 2010 (18C)
By Fr. Alex McAllister
The readings today warn us not to place our trust in material things but instead to focus on the things of the spirit.
One of the most fundamental beliefs of any Christian is that God created the world and all it contains. All material things are created and therefore depend for their existence on God. God is a spiritual being who exists quite outside the created order and holds everything that is in being.
That sounds like heavy theology but it is very important and provides us with a crucial understanding about the true place of material things in our life.
Another most important doctrine is that of Divine Providence, that if we place our whole trust in God and seek to do his will above all other things he will provide for our needs. This is much more difficult for us. But it is the road the great saints trod.
I know for example that the Founder of our Order, Father Francis Jordan, placed great trust in Divine Providence. He took extraordinary risks when he was apparently without sufficient material or personnel resources and yet somehow or other the Lord provided.
There is a famous example of how a debt was suddenly able to be paid. It was his custom to write the things he most needed on small slips of paper and place them in the hands of the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes which sat on his desk.
He did this one day when he had severe money troubles. Later in the day the Brother who answered the door came to him with an envelope that had been handed in by a Trinitarian Friar.
The envelope contained the exact amount needed which was a large sum. Enquiries were made at the Trinitarian Fathers house, which was nearby, but no one was able to recognise the description of the Friar who had handed in the envelope.
We have a long way to go before we reach the spiritual stature of Father Jordan or any of the other great saints like Francis who placed their whole trust in the Providence of God. And we recognise that it is not easy when you have responsibility for young children to take risks in that way.
But proportion is everything. We can take what we might call spiritual risks in small things. We can place our trust in God and lean on him in countless small ways. And perhaps as we go through life we will grow in our understanding of just how caring and loving God is towards us. We will grow in our trust and dependence on the extraordinary Providence of God.
The problem with material things is that we feel that they give us security. We want to live in a decent house, we want a pension for our old age, we want to provide for our children so that they can get through university without too much debt, we want a good standard of living, and so on.
When we begin to acquire these things the natural tendency is to want more and more and that’s the danger point. We begin to see material things as an end in themselves. That is the moment when the Christian needs to see all these things in their true light; to see that they are gifts from God and not the result of our own efforts.
Maybe we worked for them, but we did not bring them into being nor did we place ourselves here in this prosperous neighbourhood. Neither did we give ourselves our gifts and talents or any of the other advantages that surround us. All these are blessings from God.
Our material possessions come with responsibilities attached. And the responsibility we have is to share with those who do not have the same advantages as ourselves. But the greatest responsibility is that we must not enjoy our wealth at their expense.
I know that this is not very easy in modern society when vast multi-national corporations exploit the poor in the furthest corners of the globe and hide this from us. But it is our duty to educate ourselves in these matters. We must find out what is going on in order to ensure that we buy products from companies and organizations that trade fairly with the people in disadvantaged countries.
We also need to press governments and banks to alleviate Third World Debt. Our present government is quite fair in this regard but it has still not gone as far as it could go. Our Christianity must not stay in the Church it must express itself also politically.
We Catholics are becoming ever more aware of the need to proclaim what is now called the Gospel of Life. This means respect for the unborn child and so resistance to abortion; it means respect for the elderly and dying and so resistance to euthanasia; it means also respect for the poor and so resistance to exploitation.
As Christians we cannot collude with an economic system which leaves people hungry and without proper medical or educational facilities. We need to find suitable ways to express our solidarity with the poor and exploited people of our world.
If we ask ourselves the question: Why have we been blessed with material advantage? Then surely the reason is in order to stick up for those who do not have the same advantages. As Jesus says so clearly in our Gospel today, what will our material things be worth on the day of judgement?
When we stand at the gates of heaven we need to think about who we will be standing next to. And surely as we wait in that queue we find ourselves heavily outnumbered by the poor and exploited people of our world.