As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life (1 Timothy 6:17-19).

The three readings for today’s Mass call our attention to the use of our personal wealth and indicate how it should not be used. In the first reading Amos expresses alarm at the luxurious living of the people who have no regard for the ruin of Joseph. The second reading reminds the rich that their wealth must be used for the common good and not selfishly. The Gospel highlights the problem that arises when we become too occupied with wealth that it prevents us from caring for others.

A careful reading of today’s propers would indicate the dangers that can arise when we use our wealth selfishly and make it the centre of our lives. We cease to be caring, generous, compassionate and merciful. Luke makes the point that wealth, used greedily prevents us from acting neighbourly. All three readings indicate that that there is an absence of neighbour love when persons only think about themselves and forget the welfare of others.

Whenever we allow wealth to come between us and God and our neighbour, we make it a god and the results can be devastating. As it controls us and as we pursue it, we can act ruthlessly in our actions to acquire what we desire and see as our saviour. We can become oppressive, manipulating and possessive.

The readings must not be interpreted as a denunciation of wealth and riches. Far from it. The readings call us to be responsible in our living and to use our riches for the common good and not only for selfish gain. Poverty is always bad. It is not to be glorified. One of the eight Millennium Development Goals is the eradication of poverty by the year 2015.

Today’s Gospel reading gives lie to the thought that to be rich is to be blessed by God and that poverty is a curse from God. This is far from the truth and it is very unchristian and should not be preached by anyone. Actually, the reversal is true in the Gospel reading, the tables are turned.

Wealth is power, in the hands of those who have no regard for the community or the neighbour, it is a destructive and oppressive agent.

Unfortunately, the rich control the systems that allow for the gap between the haves and the have nots to widen. The divides between the rich and poor are evident in health care, housing, education, recreation, and the like. These divides are always to the disadvantage of the poor. But it is strange that the poor usually side with the rich against the poor; James makes an interesting observation:

“But you have dishonoured the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you, is it not they who drag you into court?  Is it not they who blaspheme that honourable name which was invoked over you” (James 2:6-7)?

The Gospel of Jesus Christ embraces all people. The readings pose a question to us. How do we minister to rich people? Very often we focus on the poor and forget the rich. We can best minister to them by challenging them to see their wealth as a gift to be shared with the less fortunate. This is the point of today’s second reading:

As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life ( 1 Timothy 6:17-19).

A second question from today’s reading is this: How do we live out our Christianity in a world of inequality? How do we witness for Christ in a world where 3 billion people live on less than $2.00 a day; where the world's 358 billionaires have assets exceeding the combined annual incomes of countries with 45 percent of the world's people; where the assets of the world's three richest men are more than the combined GNP of all the least developed countries on the planet. We cannot close our eyes to the inequalities that exist in the world and be faithful to Jesus Christ who desires abundant living for all people. Jesus said: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). What can we do to ensure that people enjoy an abundant life?

Part of our witness as Christians is to ensure that all people enjoy a decent standard of living. Recognising that we are made in God’s image and likeness, we are obligated to work for the wholesome development of people and do all we can to provide for people’s basic needs. This was the reason for the early church requiring its members to sell their possessions and make the proceeds available for the brethren (Acts 5 and 6).

As we reflect on today’s readings, the following questions might be useful: How do we use our wealth however large or small it may be? Do we see our wealth as a gift from God or as an entitlement? Is it our servant or our master? How would we respond to Jesus’ instruction “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me" (Luke 18:22).

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