October 11, 2015
On June 6, 1976, one of the wealthiest persons in the world passed away at the age of 83. J. Paul Getty was worth between 3 and 4 billion US dollars. After his 5th divorce some years before he told an interviewer, “I would give all my wealth for one successful marriage. I hate being a failure. I hate not being able to make a success of marriage.” Once a reporter pressed him to admit that he couldn’t take it with him, Getty thought a while and then answered, “Yes, it would be quite a load, wouldn’t it?” Another time he admitted that money cannot buy happiness and he believed money even had some connection with unhappiness.
This story comes to my mind as I read the account of the rich young man in today’s Gospel (Mk 10: 17-30). This wealthy young fellow was leading a good moral life, yet he felt something was missing. Jesus told him what was needed, “Go, sell what you own, give money to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, then come, and follow me.” The young man turned away because he had great possessions.
How does this apply to you and me? Before we answer that, consider two facts. First, every single one of us, no matter how much or how little we possess, will have to do what Jesus asked the young man to do: we will have to give up everything we have – at death. The other fact is that thousands of men and women throughout history and in our time voluntarily give up everything to become religious priests (not me, I’m a secular priest-I have a bank account!), brothers and sisters. Even many lay people do this in order to serve God more freely.
Does Jesus demand that all of us give up everything we have? Does he expect all of us to become religious? Not at all. But he does demand that we use our wealth in such a way that we do not forget the heavenly Father who gave us these possessions.
Is it wrong to save? Is it wrong to build up a nest egg? Is it wrong to provide for old age or for one’s family? Not at all. (But if you think that it’s wrong, give me your wealth; I need that to help those in needs, the immigrants and poor churches). The wrong of riches is adoring, serving and trusting the almighty dollar instead of the almighty God.
When the apostles asked Jesus, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus declared, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” So it is possible for the rich man to be saved – for you and me too – but only with the help of God. My suggestion is that we ask our heavenly Father to help us use our riches (or our poverty) in the right way in order to help us realize that material things are a blessing and a gift from God, which means it is to be shared as the Lord Jesus shares his Body and Blood in the Eucharist. May God bless you all on this Thanksgiving Weekend!