Archive for category Wealth/Money

Luke 12:13-21 Parable of the rich fool

As far as the Bible is concern, the rich man mentioned in the Gospel who died while his barns were bulging with goods that he couldn’t use was not an evil man. Jesus didn’t say that he was dishonest, immoral, exploitative and oppressive. The man was rich prior to the harvest, and the harvest simply increased his wealth. Certainly, he appears to have been very successful in his occupation. He must have been an intelligent, resourceful, and industrious worker to have accumulated such great wealth. The Lord didn’t call him a sinner, but sad to say, the Lord denounced him as a fool.

What are some of the sins and failings of the the rich man why he deserved such harsh condemnation from the Lord?

First, the rich failed to restrain his obsession for possession and wealth. In the story we are told that he was so obsessed to hoard more, to possess more and to acquire more not knowing that death awaits him and caught him by surprise and, therefore, he was unprepared for his untimely death. And that costs him his soul. Indeed “Greed never rests from the acquiring of more” (On Love of Wealth 1 [Mor. 523 E]; L. T. Johnson 1991:198) until death puts a stop to it.

Second, the rich man made the mistake of thinking he was the absolute owner of his possessions when in truth he was just a steward of God’s gifts, graces and blessings. In his eyes, they were his barns, his fruits, his goods. He had forgotten, if he ever knew, that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.

Possessions or wealth are not to be hoarded selfishly but to be used to benefit those around us. What a tragic misuse of the gift of resources this man had gained! What could have been an opportunity for generosity and blessing became a stumbling block to the soul. Indeed, money is the best servant but a worst master!

Third, he was worried about the present  only and forgot about eternity.

Fourth, he was concerned only for the physical and material and forgot about spiritual things.

Fifth, he treasured things more than people. It is not surprising, therefore, if that man is worldly, materialistic, self-centered and self-absorbed. As expected, he lived his life in isolation. The hint of his problem lies in the man’s use of the first-person pronoun.  Go through the parable and circle the words “I” and “my” to get a sense of the man’s self-absorption.  In his short conversation with himself, he uses the word “I” six times and the word “my” five times.  Everything is “I” and “my.”

In sum, the rich man  is guilty of greed or avarice which he greatly manifested by his self-absorption and obsession for possession and wealth. To borrow the words of St. Paul, he is guilty of “the love of money which is the root of all evil”  (see cf. 1 Tm 6:10). Worst of all, he is guilty of idolatry (see Col 3:5).

Be on your guard and avoid every kind of greed, for even though you have many possessions, it is not that which gives you life’ (Mt12:15).  What does it profit a man if gains the whole world and loses his soul? Rather, be rich in what really matters to God (see Mt 12:21). Be rich in virtues, good works, and holiness.  “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6:33).

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Luke 19:1-10 Zacchaeus, the Chief Tax Collector and a Wealthy Man

The salvation of any is so very difficult (even the righteous scarcely are saved) while the salvation of the rich is seemingly impossible (Mt 19:24). Jesus explicitly teaches that the salvation of a rich man is so extremely difficult, that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” (Mt 19:24).  Much more it such a rich man is a tax collector despised by the Jews as traitor and thief.  

Although it is a seeming impossibility for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, with God’s initiative and gift of salvation and man’s cooperation his salvation becomes possible. Indeed, with God what seems impossible becomes possible. 

In today’s gospel narrative, we heard a story about Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector of a wealthy city of Jericho, center of commerce and exporter date palms and balsam. The story of Zacchaeus, is a story of a rich man who finds salvation. As Ryle noted, “Here we see the camel passing through the eye of the needle, and the rich man entering the kingdom of God” (J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House), p. 290)! Although it seem impossible for the rich people to be saved (see Mt 19:24), God can save them. For with God’s grace nothing is impossible. Along with the grace and initiative of God in Christ to seek out and to save what was lost, what saved Zacchaeus from sin and isolation?

First, his humility.  He humbled himself in acknowledging his sinfulness before God to the point of seeking to see Jesus who will save him from slavery to sin and misery caused by sin whose nature is to separate us from God and from one another. Humility is the sure evidence of Christian virtues. Without it, we retain all our faults still, and they are only covered over with pride, which hides them from other men’s observation, and sometimes from our own too (François, Duc De La Rochefoucauld (1613–1680), French writer, moralist. repr. F.A. Stokes Co., New York (c. 1930). Moral Maxims and Reflections, no. 358 (1665-1678), trans. London (1706)).

Second, his joyful welcome of Jesus and his gift of salvation and his response of repentance. Interior repentance is a radical orientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our hearts, an end to sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of the spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of the heart) (Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1676-1678; 1705; cf. Roman Catechism, II, V, 4). 

“Penance requires…the sinner to endure all things willingly, be contrite of heart, confess with the lips, and practice complete humility and fruitful satisfaction” Roman Catechism II, V, 21; cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1673). “Penance is therefore a conversion that passes from the heart to deeds, and then to the Christian’s whole life” (RP, n. 4).

Third, his repentance led him to renewal of life in Christ. “Conversion is accomplished and manifested in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, just and equitable reparation of the damage and harm done to others, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right,[Cf. Am 5:24 ; Isa 1:17 .] by the admission of faults to one’s brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one’s cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance’ (Cf. Lk 9:23 ).

St. Paul exhorts Christian who repented and converted to Christ:

“I declare and solemnly attest in the Lord that you must no longer live as pagans do – their minds empty, their understanding darkened. They are estranged from a life in God because of their ignorance and their resistance without remorse they have abandoned themselves to lust and the indulgence of every sort of lewd conduct. That is not what you learned when you learned Christ! I am supposing, of course, that he has been preached and taught to you in accord with the truth that is in Jesus: namely, that you must lay aside your former way of life and the old self which deteriorates through illusion and desire and acquire a fresh, spiritual way of thinking. You must put on that new man created in God’s image, whose justice and holiness are born of truth”  (Eph 4:17-24). 

It was not Zacchaeus’ giving money that saved him but his joyful reception of Jesus Christ and his invitation of salvation into his home and heart. Friends, Jesus has been knocking the door of our homes and hearts, be always ready in letting him in that you, like Zacchaeus, shall received the reward of Jesus: “Today salvation has come to this house…For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost” (Lk 19:10)

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Luke 14:25-33 Costs of Discipleship

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that “To be in blessed and intimate communion with God is the fulfillment of the deepest longing of the human heart, a state of supreme and definitive happiness.” Heaven is the ultimate goal of human existence. It is the fulfillment of the deepest longing of every human being. Why? With God everything is sufficient. With God nothing is lacking. This is what we hope for. This is what we pray for. This is what we strive for.

In the letter of St. Paul to Timothy  there it is revealed to us that God wants all men and women to be saved and come to the fullness of truth (1 Tim 2:4): Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through him (Jn 14:6).  Yes God wants all men and women of all nations and generations to be happy with him in heaven. Yes we desire to be happy with God in heaven. Yet there is always something that prevents or hinders us from reaching our goal or fulfilling the deepest longing of our inmost being/

What is it that prevents or blocks us from following Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life? These are:  social and familial relations, lack of perseverance and wealth and possessions.

In order to be happy with God in heaven, believing is not enough. Following the Lord is not enough. To be true disciple of Jesus is necessary. A disciple not on our own terms and conditions. A disciple not on our standard or measure. A disciple not on our qualification and merit. But a disciple based on the grace, measure and purpose of our Lord Jesus Christ who is our Lord, Savior and Teacher.

Considering the Gospel as a whole we can somehow conclude that a true disciple of Jesus possesses a combination of three traits: singleness of purpose, undivided heart, and persevering spirit.

Singleness of purpose requires of us that whatever happens our ultimate purpose in life is to be happy with God in  heaven. St. Paul reminds us that our ultimate destiny is heaven and our ultimate goal is to be happy with God. Therefore let us always guard ourselves against the danger of overindulging in worldly pleasure like drugs, alcohol, sex and food and not to be more preoccupied with worldly, material physical and sexual concerns. Else we will be tempted, misled, deceived, lost and enslaved by them.

Undivided heart requires of us that we will follow, love and serve the Lord wholeheartedly, freely and generously. Undivided heart reminds us that God wants His people to value and prioritize heaven over corporal, material and earthly things which may pass away. The moment we decided to follow the Lord that is also the moment  that our loyalty, obedience and faithfulness to God must be unparalleled. Therefore, when it comes to priorities in life and hierarchy of values God takes precedence over our relations and possession, “Where your treasure is, there your heart is,” says the Lord.

Persevering spirit means that we will never give in to temptation and sins. It also means that we will never give up our faith, conviction, ideals, values in life even under the pressure of money, power, popularity and  pleasure. Lastly, persevering spirit means that we will not quit what we have started even in the face of trials, hardships and persecution. Gen. Douglas McArthur once said, “Old age wrinkles the body, quitting wrinkles the soul.”

In today’s Mass let us be reminded that we are only pilgrims here on earth. Heaven is our homeland. To be completely and perfectly happy with God in heaven is our inmost longing, Have a singleness of purpose. Love and serve the Lord with undivided heart. Persevere in faith, hope and love.

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Lk 19:1-10 Zacchaeus the Tax Collector

Jesus was passing through Jericho from the area of Jordan to Bethany near Jerusalem. He was on his way to raise Lazarus back to life. It was an important journey that he was undertaking but as he was going to perform this great miracle he still found time to deal with other people and their issues and needs and wants. The need that was going to delay him for a while was a man called Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector.

He is a small man, too short to see over the crowd. Zacchaeus, an abbreviation of Zechariah, means “the righteous one”– a big name to live up to.

The Roman empire had no officials of its own for the collection of taxes: in each country it used local people for this purpose. These were free to engage agents (hence we find reference to “chief tax collectors”: cf. Luke 19:2). The global amount of tax for each region was specified by the Roman authorities; the tax collectors  levied more than this amount, keeping the surplus for themselves: this led them to act rather arbitrarily, which was why the people hated them. In the case of the Jews, insult was added to injury by the fact that the chosen people were being exploited by Gentiles.

They were treated as the worst kind of sinners going, as they were sinning through choice and not ignorance. They were classed as untouchables, people to be shunned at all cost. Some other occupations that were classed as sinners were barbers, tanners, shepherds; they were all immoral jobs but at the top of this list were tax collectors. The moral equivalent of tax collectors were traitors, murderers and infidels.

Having considered this we can somehow say that the name is incongruous for Zacchaeus, since he is the chief tax collector in Jericho, and tax collectors were notorious for cheating the general public to fatten their pockets. They would assess a tax, and if the person refused to pay or called it unfair, Herod’s soldiers would threaten him. Regions of a kingdom would be divided up into districts, and a tax collector would become responsible for collecting a certain amount of tax and passing it up the chain to the government. Whatever he collected over the amount required was his to keep. A chief tax collector would employ tax collectors under him to collect taxes in various parts of the district.

As chief tax collector, Zacchaeus is probably was responsible for collecting tolls on goods coming into Judea from Perea, a main trade route. This business has made him rich. But despite his riches, or perhaps because of them, Zacchaeus is hated by the people. They see him as a crook and a traitor, who works as a spy for the Roman oppressors in order to take their money and give it to the occupation government, and on to Rome.

Zacchaeus being described in detail as short, wealthy, and chief tax collector would simply imply that  he is not only hated and condemned by the Jews but, more importantly his salvation is seemingly impossible.

In the figure of Zacchaeus in today’s Gospel, we have a portrait of a lost soul  wanting, needing, waiting, willing and ready to be saved when the right moment comes.

Zacchaeus’ faith brings salvation not only to himself but also to his house. He expresses his faith in his fervent desire to “see” Jesus, even humbling himself to climb a tree just to watch Him pass by. While those of loftier religious stature react to Jesus with grumbling, Zacchaeus receives Him with joy.

Zacchaeus is not like the other rich men Jesus meets or tells stories about (see Luke 12:16-21; 16:19-31; 18:18-25). He repents, vowing to pay restitution to those he has cheated and to give half of his money to the poor.

By his humility he is exalted, made worthy to welcome the Lord into his house. By his faith, he is justified, made a descendant of Abraham (see Romans 4:16-17).

Zacchaeus knew that all his riches and wealth would never make him happy. He also knew that he needed a Savior, one that could save him from all his sins. One who could
give him true happiness and peace of mind. His desire and change of heart, to make restitution with those he falsely accused and stolen from, and to give half of his goods to the poor, could have only been made possible by the gift of God, to those who believe.

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John 12:1-11 The anointing at Bethany

When Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with expensive perfume, Judas the Iscariot vehemently protested for he was enslaved by his greed for money.

Are we not sometimes enslaved by our greed for money? How many family relationships have been broken because of our greed for money? How many government officials have sold their souls to the devil simply because of their greed for money? Countless already and we never learn for we continue with our greed for money!

Money will buy us a house but not a home; money will buy us material things but not happiness and money will buy us sex but not true love. Let us not be greedy with money because it will not do us any good it will in fact make our lives more chaotic and problematic.

Saint Paul in his letter to timothy has said: “The love of money is the root of all evils.” (1st Timothy 6:10)

Posted by: Marino J. Dasmarinas

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