7 August [Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time]
"Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."
“Do not be afraid, little flock…. Sell your possessions, and give away money to the poor.” But if we were to do that (I say to myself) wouldn’t we have even more reason to be afraid? Our greatest fear is that we will be left with nothing.
Still, money doesn’t bring happiness, everyone agrees. But then we go straight back to pursuing it as if it did. How is that? While perhaps not expecting it to bring us happiness, we hope it will at least take away our misery. But it doesn’t. It only enables us to be miserable in comfort – then we can really concentrate on our misery.
Be alert, be ready, be waiting: that is the advice given in today’s reading. “Be like those who are waiting for their master to return…. Be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour." A full purse, like a full stomach, makes you want to go to sleep. You become oblivious to everything except the stock market or your business - and that is a kind of sleep. All great religious figures kept repeating, ‘Wake up!’ It is not that everyone was dozing in the sun; no they were not: they were making money.
In an organised society money is necessary to live. It is a great convenience. It is about shortcuts. Instead of being a hunter-gatherer yourself, you pay someone to do your hunting and gathering for you, while you do some other useful thing. But we also know from experience that a shortcut can be the longest distance between two points. Some shortcuts lead you into the middle of a bog. Money is seductive because it appears to be the key to everything and everywhere: it is nothing in itself (it would be useless to you on a desert island), but it carries a promise of everything. Even when it fails you, it just changes its face (it has no face of its own) and seduces you in a different way. It lives on promise; it is a promissory note. And it has this additional quality: just as it never shows you its real face (because it has none), it never shows you yours. Instead, it flashes an image before you of what you could be. It never warns you that when you are rich you will still be just a poor person with money.
There was once a wealthy man who decided to donate a large amount of money to a monastery. To his great surprise, the abbot said, ‘No thanks, we have enough at present.’ The rich man pressed him to take it anyway, but he refused politely. Suddenly the rich man began to weep. ‘You have made me realise how poor I am,’ he said, ‘I have nothing to offer you except money.’
Jesus gave many warnings about the seductions of wealth. There is nothing wrong with the material things of the world in themselves. It is our greed that makes them seductive. If my purse is always full, I will think only about getting a bigger purse. And it will fade gradually from my awareness that half the world is hungry. And I may also fail to notice that I am hungry myself, because my heart is empty. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” If money is my treasure, there will be nothing in my heart except money.
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