Monday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

The “rich young man” – Matthew 19:16-22

One of the distinguishing marks of Catholic life has been the high value placed on the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience: the “counsels of perfection” as they have been traditionally called. Stretching back to the poverty of Jesus and the witness of an army of desert fathers and saints, the Church has recognized that not all are called to this radical witness, but has also preferred the way of poverty to that of riches, as did Jesus.

Our culture, formed in a very different tradition, in fact sees material wealth as the prime sign of righteousness, of God’s blessing. Though it can be a blessing, it is more often a curse, as it was for the rich young man, who was trapped by his possessions, and refused Jesus’ call, favoring his riches.

St. Ignatius has famously written: “poverty has always been the bulwark of true religion.” We need to simply call to mind Mother Teresa, and her revolutionary witness – and we will savor the beautiful truth here, a truth Pope Francis is emphasizing for our time.

August 18th, 2014