19 Pentecost
The Reverend Noel E. Bordador

At the very core of our human nature exist our need to love with great passion, and our need to be loved unconditionally. Our happiness it seems depends on having these needs met. And so, we go on longing, hungering, thirsting and searching for the source of this happiness, the object of love that will satisfy this need. Mystics have long since claimed that this innate drive to to search ultimately is a gift from God. God has inflicted upon us a certain “divine discontent” as Saint Augustine puts it, making our hearts restless, a restless refusal to be tamed, comforted and satisfied by no thing or no other object of love except God himself. In this way, our restless human longing, our unfulfilled desires, are themselves, I dare say, sacramental, because they can point us, lead us, take us back to God.

But there is also a danger in our desires since our longings awaken us to the deep void and emptiness in us, waiting to be filled, making us all feel vulnerable, and insecure. Our desires remind us of a vast separation between us and God. And so, what we do is often run away from this “sorrow” and instead we fill our loneliness with things other than God. And one of the things we fill that void with is money, the very subject of the readings for this Sunday.

Let me begin by saying that Jesus nowhere condemns money (in and of itself) as evil; he never says that money is the root of evil. In the Gospels, Jesus and his close disciples seemed to carry lots of cash that they used at least for two purposes: to provide basic necessities for themselves (to take care of themselves) and to give alms to the poor (that is, to take care of the others who were less fortunate than them). What Jesus warns against is the love of money, and the root of that evil is not money, but the heart. The heart deceives the human person in believing that true happiness and fulfillment are found in hoarding wealth and possessions. The heart deceives itself that money is the source of its security, and so involves itself in a lifelong project of acquisition of money to cover up its insecurity. Two things happen.

First, the love of money evicts God out of the heart, for Jesus warns: “No slave can serve two masters…One cannot serve God and wealth.” This is the point of the Gospel story today. We hear the story ofa good young man who basically followed the rules of his religion. Yet, when he was confronted with a choice between the love of God and his money and possession, sadly, we read that he chose the latter

Secondly, our drive to acquire more and more can lead us to compete against others. His treasure is not God but his wealth. His heart is filled with the concern for money and not his relationship with God and the poor.
 But the love of money can affect not only our relationship with God but with others. Often, excessive preoccupation with material things and hoarding money can close our hearts to the cry of the poor and the less fortunate among us. By this excessive preoccupation, people become involve in dishonesty, in injustice and oppression of others by cheating or exploting others.   

It is for this reason that Jesus warns us to guard our hearts from the love of money, or for that matter, any inordinate love of any thing that is not God. How do we guard the heart? There are at least three tools we can use to guard our heart. The first tool is prayer. If God alone can fulfill the deepest desire of the heart, then we must have an unceasing connection with God, and prayer is that foremost connection. Otherwise, a lack of connection leaves the heart open to be occupied by things other than God.

The second tool is wakefulness or watchfulness. We need money for food, shelter, education or healthcare. So each one of us is entitled to have money for this very reason. But it is not enough for us to earn and use money. We must become aware of how we earn and use it. Do I earn my money honestly, or do I earn my money off the backs of the people and the vulnerable in our society? Am I employed in a job that benefits people and the larger community, or am I in a job that is harmful to people, to my community or that poisons the environment? Are my investments not only fiscally sound but also morally sound? Do I invest in companies that have a good record in promoting economic equity and peace, or does my investment portfolio contain investments in companies that destroy local economies or engage in the creation of instruments of war, of weapons of mass destruction?  Do I use my money solely for my own advantage or do I also share it with the Church or causes of justice? How do I hold accountable the civil authorities of my community and nation so that all in society benefits from collective wealth? My point here is that my, our individual right to have money must be counterbalanced by the rights of others in the larger community, and the protection of our environment. The third tool is what we usually called self-denial. Self-denial means the refusal to rely on things of this world for security; and self-denial includes the refusal to hoard possessions and money for one’s own gain alone. Instead, the Christian is exhorted that after taking care of one’s necessities, one must also share one’s possessions and money to others who are in need. Self-denial might also include denying ourselves a job or position produces income that results from injustice done to others. And if we find ourselves benefiting by the exploitation of others, then we must also reverse any economic practices that are unjust as a sign of our repentance, conversion, and newness of life in Christ.           

The Gospel drives home the point today that money is a spiritual issue. It is worth examining how money impacts our spiritual journey with God