Accepting the Gift
Twenty-Fifth Sunday of the Year. Br Thomas Thérèse Mannion suggests that our attitude to wealth is related to our acceptance of salvation.
The Lord desires all souls to be saved. We know this because it is for this reason he sacrificed himself and rose from the dead. ‘… God our saviour: he desires everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth… Christ Jesus, who sacrificed himself as a ransom for all’. In John’s Gospel we read: ‘For God so loved the world he gave his only Son…’ and in another place ‘I came that you might have life and have it abundantly’. These things are told to us as in order that, Christ himself says: ‘… your joy may be complete’. The Lord not only desires to reconcile the world to himself but He actively works to bring this about not in spite of us but with us.
The Second Vatican Council teaches that God grants to all the opportunity to be associated with the Paschal mystery: his saving work. God is bringing about our salvation here and now by granting us the opportunities to be associated with and united with Him. Yet notice: that all are given the opportunity does not mean all will take up that opportunity. This is a defect which is not in God but in us. God’s total and radical love is not compromised by our rejection of that love.
In his wisdom, the Lord has made many good things dependent upon us and salvation is one of them. Human beings are then, by the grace of God, real causes of good things. We can see that God’s wisdom and the human heart do not have to be in competition but can, and are intended to, work together in harmony. This is part of the great dignity we are given as his servants and heirs to the kingdom as brothers and sisters of Christ. God desires to share his glory with us but we have to participate.
However, it is possible to choose not to participate in the life of God through our deeds. The Lord tells us in our first reading that the Lord will never forget those who suppress the poor and trample on the needy. Those who long for the Lord’s day, the Sabbath, to be over so they can ‘buy up the poor for money, and the needy for a pair of sandals.’ Without repentance here there is a disconnect in the relationship between God and his people; as we read in 1 John: ‘How can you love God whom you have not seen if you do not love your brother whom you have seen?’
Today’s Gospel hammers home the point: you cannot be a slave both of God and of Money. It is not so much that material possessions are evil, in fact they can be very useful but that is the point we use money not persons – whether those persons be human persons or divine persons! Material possessions are entrusted to us so that we can express love and thereby become more like God. It is God who is at the heart of our lives not money.
Leo XIII, in his encyclical Rerum Novarum, whilst protecting the right to private property also taught this, drawing on St. Thomas Aquinas: ‘Man should not consider his material possessions as his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need … no one is commanded to distribute to others that which is required for his own needs and those of his household; nor what is reasonably required to keep up becomingly his condition in life … but when what necessity’s demands have been supplied, and one’s standing fairly taken thought for, it becomes a duty to give to the poor of what remains’. We owe something to the poor not solely from charity but also from justice.
How we use money and how we treat other human beings, whether we know them or not, is one of the ways in which we accept or reject the gift of salvation. The Lord desires us to be saved: how in my life do I accept his gracious opportunity each day?
Readings: Amos 8:4-7 | 1 Timothy 2:1-8 | Luke 16:1-13
Image: detail from ‘Christ Cleansing the Temple’ by El Greco, photographed by fr Lawrence Lew OP