MONEY THAT ISN’T OURS
In our Churches we ask for money for the needy, but no longer is the Christian doctrine put forth that theologians and preachers like Ambrose of Treveris, Augustine of Hippo or Bernard de Claraval preached forcefully about money.
One question appeared constantly on their lips. If we are all brothers and sisters and the earth is God’s gift to all humanity, with what right can we keep hoarding what we don’t need, if by that we are depriving others of what they need to live? Don’t we rather have to affirm that what is surplus for the rich belongs to the poor?
We mustn’t forget that to own something always means excluding that from others. With ‘private property’ we are always ‘depriving’ others of what we are enjoying.
That’s why when we give something of ours to the poor, in reality maybe we are making restitution of what doesn’t completely belong to us. We listen to these words of St. Ambrose: «You don’t give to the poor person what’s yours, but you return to them what’s theirs. Since what is common is of everyone, not only of the rich…you’re paying then a debt; you don’t give gratuitously what you don’t owe».
Naturally all this can seem like naïve and useless idealism. In a rigid way the laws protect the private property of the privileged, though within society there are poor who live in misery. St. Bernard reacts thus in his time: «They are continually dictating laws in our palaces; but they’re laws of Justinian, not of the Lord».
We don’t need to be surprised that Jesus, when he meets a rich man who has fulfilled all the commandments from his childhood, tells him that he still lacks one thing to adopt an authentic posture as his follower: stop hoarding and start to share what he has with those in need.
The rich man leaves Jesus full of sadness. Money has impoverished him, he has left behind freedom and generosity. Money keeps him from listening to God’s call for a fuller and more human life. «How hard it is for those who have riches to enter God’s reign». It’s not good fortune to have money, but a true problem, since money keeps us from following the true path toward Jesus and toward his project of God’s reign.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf