Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A-2011

From Vincentian Encyclopedia
You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength (Dt. 6:5—NAB)

Curiosity makes me wonder why the original of today’s Gospel reading kept the Aramaic word mamôna and did not replace it with a truly Greek word. Is it a matter of emphazing that the Aramaic word does not simply mean money, wealth or property but that it has the connotation of ill-gained wealth or greed or the deification or personification of money as object of worship? ¿Could the use of the Aramaic word indicate perhaps sensitivity toward both the rich and the poor? If the warning were explicity about money, it could be mistakenly perceived as sarcasm by the beneficiaries of the apostolic distributions and they might feel insulted. The benefactors, on the other hand, who would “sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each ones’s need” (Acts 2:45; 4:34-35), might easily be offended, thinking that the warning was meant to condemn them. But be it as it may, my curiosity is of no importance. And in either case really, the warning about mammon, taken in its context, does not indicate absolute prohibition against money.

What is clearly and unambiguously forbidden is love of money, which is the root of all evil, and servitude to wealth as if it were God (cf. 1 Tim. 6:10). Faith in the Lord, the one and only God (Dt. 6:4), supposes that the believer does not exchange him for anybody or anything. Only God should be worshiped and served, not the dollar nor the Euro, as almighty as it is made to look by Satan who tempts us, as he tempted Jesus, with a promise of a bribe consisting of all the kingdoms of the world and their magnificence in exchange for our total submission (Mt. 4:8-10). Idolatry of all kinds is forbidden. And what is recommended, with a guarantee of happiness and security, is that one should not make gold his life’s object nor put his trust in wealth (Sir. 31:8-11).

One, therefore, has to do as St. Vincent de Paul did: he did not serve money, worth millions of dollars, which passed through his hands; he made use of money to serve the poor, and therefore, God. St. Vincent made friends for himself with money and made sure it would make for welcome into eternal dwellings and not lead to wickedness (cf. Lk. 16:9)—although, before his conversion, what mostly concerned him (perhaps, weighed him down) were “the desires and ambitions for rents, promotions and securities” [1] rather than the preference and the solicitude for the kingdom and justice of God.

It is worth repeating that idolatry in all its forms is forbidden. At times, just as greed and luxury pass for “the good life” and “getting ahead,” if not for virtues downright, idolatry disguises itself as proper appreciation for the material blessings that, according prosperity televangelists, are God’s rewards for those who are good [2]. At other times, idolatry comes disguised as legitimate worry for the necessities of life. Such worry—proper of the pagans and manifested in unhelpful and useless anxieties—should not characterize any Christian.

What should be a trait of every Christian, in general, and of every member of the Vincentian family, in particular, is the audacity, ridiculed by the children of this world, of preferring, among other things, to do without necessities, rather than lose Christ’s love. “In practice, then,” Christians, Vincentians, “should not worry too much about temporal affairs” and “ought to have confidence in God that he will look after us since we know for certain that as long as we are grounded in that sort of love and trust we will be always under the protection of God in heaven, we will remain unaffected by evil and never lack what we need even when everything we possess seems headed for disaster” [3].

Key for us Christians, for Vincentians, is trust in God—whose love far exceeds a mother’s love for the child of her womb—and not in our preparations and efforts [4]. This trust in God serves as strength for the weak and as eye for the blind [5]. The top priority is to seek enlarging the kingdom of Jesus rather than adding to our possessions, convinced that if we are about Jesus’ business as his good servants and faithful stewards of divine mysteries, he will look after ours [6]. If we allow the birds in the sky and the wild flowers and the grass of the field to share with us their trustful life in the open air (cf. Ps. 104)—without any need for buildings, much less for fine buildings that God does not approve of [7]—then, perhaps, we will be granted the grace as effective as the one granted to the poor who had heard, “Go, Francis, and repair my church, which you see is falling down.”

Needless to say, Jesus’ teaching is not meant to offend either the rich or the poor. But it does challenge all of us, rich and poor. Jesus invites us to do what he did, namely, to renounce our selfishness and the lie that self-sufficiency is, and offer ourselves to God for others, commending ourselves into God’s hands even, or precisely, when we feel completely abandoned by him. This is to live, I think, what we celebrate in the Eucharist.


NOTES:

[1] Jaime Corera, C.M., Vida del Señor Vicente de Paúl (Salamanca: Editorial Ceme, 1989) 20.
[2] Cf. Inter-Varsity Press Commentary at http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Matt/Do-Not-Value-Possessions, http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Matt/Do-Not-Value-Possessions-Seek, http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Matt/Do-Not-Value-Possessions-Worry (accessed February 23, 2011).
[3] Common Rules of the Congregation of the Mission II, 2; cf. also P. Coste IX, 88-89.
[4] P. Coste II, 289.
[5] Ibid. III, 149.
[6] Ibid. III, 532.
[7] Ibid. VIII, 41.