Saturday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 16:13: “You cannot serve God and mammon.”
It is all about money. Some people learn this early on in life – some learn it from home – others have to wait a long life to realize that in the end, this world comes down to money. What else is money but the world put in measurable and transferrable form, gold, paper, whatever symbol is being used? When I was a young man, I was interested in Buddhism. A wizened Japanese woman said to me: “my father is now an old man, and he studies Buddha. When you’re old, study Buddh: when you’re young make money.” And she said “money” with a sort of leer that said that – well – it is all about money.
We Christians come out of another ancient Asian wisdom tradition. But our tradition was aware of the injustice to which wealth is prone, and more, our tradition had a special concern for the poor. That reached its peak, its fullness, in the Lord Jesus, who came to poor people, and was poor Himself, all His life and death. Because He was poor, He was powerless in the eyes of the world, and was treated accordingly. That is, He was treated with contempt, disrespect: ignored, maltreated, ultimately killed. The fate of God in the world. St. Ignatius famously taught: “poverty has always been the bulwark of true religion.” Alas, even our own tradition has often been seduced by “worldly realities….”
Well, perhaps when Jesus was young, He should have made money, and then spent a peaceful old age contemplating higher things. Respected, influential, secure. Some people actually suggest things like that. But His was a mission far beyond this worldly wisdom, a mission from the living God, who alone is rich, and whose riches are really only revealed to the poor in this world. “You cannot serve God and the world” is what is being said, for God is not of this world – and the god of this world is the “almighty dollar.” There were ages when that idol had other names, as there will likely be other ages as well. Always demanding, all-consuming: the only freedom from the tyranny of mammon is in God, and His service. United to His creation in the penniless Jesus, God comes into the world. Only with Him and in Him can we truly say: “it is not all about money.” It is all about God. And He does not need money.