Postage for Pakistan and other parts of the planet

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Really interesting point (two actually)

Mark Shea had a whizbang of a column this week. It was on the poor and the close of Lent and the like, and I just found it intelligent, impressive, and thought-provoking. See what you think.
The first point I found interesting was this:

"It is worth noting that Mary's [i.e., Mary, sister of Lazarus, who annointed Our Lord's feet with perfumed oil and her tears of repentance] gesture is the sole moment in the entire ministry of the Christ—the Anointed One—in which he is actually anointed. That God chooses this humble woman to make manifest the truth of Who Jesus is reflects profound on the humility of God."
Shea doesn't state the second point explicitly, but it certainly follows from what he did write. Namely, Our Lord said, "The poor you will always have with you." He didn't have to make it this way. In a new order, He could have commanded Christians to not rest until they had eradicated poverty. He could have made it the greatest of all sins to not help the poor (and in a way, it is). And yet He didn't. Why?

Shea points to a possible answer when he writes:

In short, the poor are an opportunity to be generous and the rich shall be judged by their use of that opportunity. The poor constitute a permanent conemporary test of love and a reminder of God's generosity to us. God will withhold mercy from the merciless and generosity from the stingy, according the Old Testament ...
The popes over the last 100+ years have been very clear on this, none more so—and none more challengingly so—than the Servant of God Paul VI. While we have the right to private property, strictly speaking, our property is not our own. The popes and all the Magisterium teach that if God has blessed us with much, it is because He wants us to use those resources to help the poor. I often dream of having a hundred acre estate with a deep beautiful lawn and woods and an English garden. But would I need that much space? (Well, in my head I do, but that's only because I'm anti-social and don't like having neighbors who can see in on my property unless I invite them to do so; it's why I love living out in the country.)

Fr. Robert Barron has said that if you have the means to buy a $50,000 car, buy the $23,000 car and donate the other $27,000 to charity. Mother Teresa got a huge payment for winning the Nobel Prize (if memory serves, about $1 million). Think of how many houses for her order that cash could have built, or how many soup kitchens, etc. Or think how she could have used it to own more than one sari or have better food, a nicer bed, etc.

Instead, she gave everything to charity and went on living an impoverished life. Bernie Madoff used money he received for his own self-aggrandizement, bankrupting several charities that do serve the poor in the process.

There have been times when I have desperately wanted a better standard of living. I sit in my small home that houses eight people, and I long for a larger house so I can close a door and actually take an undisturbed nap. I occasionally wish I could afford a second car or the ability to regularly take my wife on a nice date or all my kids to the movies at once or to go bowling as a family on a regular basis. A family I knew—the father was a successful real estate lawyer—went out to breakfast as a family after church each and every Sunday. My father-in-law occasionally invites me out to breakfast on Saturday mornings with he and his brother, and one person ordinarily picks up the check: I've been able to do so maybe twice in the 15 years I've known him. I've never been able to pick up a dinner tab for a party when I've gone out. And if I buy a treat at the local convenience store during the pay period or buy more than than just the necessities when I shop for groceries, very often I'll be overdrawn by the pay period's end. So how many times have I wished I was better off? Ugh. Brother? More than you can count.

Then I think, however, God knows better than I do what's best for me. After all, if I was rich or even simply more affluent, might I come to rely on my own power and trust more and more on myself and rely/trust less and less on Him? Might I become even more selfish than I already am and thereby—because I didn't donate more sacrificially to the poor and thus fail that "permanent conemporary test of love and a reminder of God's generosity to us"—lose my soul?

Being rich is not a sin. It is not an automatic exclusion from heaven. Jesus didn't say, "Blessed are the poor." Rather, He said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." There's a huge difference. Indeed, rich women such as St. Emma of Gurk and Bl. Jacoba di Settesoli or rulers such as Ss. Louis IXGontram, and Wenceslaus show it is possible to be filthy rich and still enter heaven.

The difference is what do we do with that wealth? God was totally self-giving in His earthly ministry, in the Garden, and on the Cross. To enter heaven, as indicated in Revelation 21:27, we must imitate this same selfless, totally self-donating love. Otherwise, it seems that to enter into the Trinity without having done so (or without purification) would profane what cannot be profaned.

What are your thoughts?

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely spot on, as usual, I do have to admit.


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