November 10, 2012 - Saturday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Philippians 4:10-19
Psalm 112:1-2, 5-6, 8-9
Luke 16:9-15

St. Paul has such a gentle way of speaking with the Philippians about money. First he says that he rejoiced greatly to see the gift, but then he declares that he could have done just fine without the gift, which seems an ungrateful thing to say. He explains that he has learned to live in poverty and riches, in whatever circumstances that he finds himself. Does he say all this to brag about his own goodness? No. He is telling us how a Christian ought to live. A Christian should desire to be rich in the spiritual gifts and above all to have an abundance of love. It should not occur to a Christian to desire material wealth beyond their material need, because we know that happiness does not come from what we possess.

So why did he rejoice so to see the gift? He says that he was more grateful to see their generosity than for the gift itself. He sees the gift as a physical manifestation of their love and concern for him. He has loved them and served them. Anyone who loves someone else desires to be loved in return. Here is proof of that love. And he is proud like a father to see these people whom he brought into the faith show such generosity. By this gift they prove that they understand and embrace the teachings of Jesus. No father who ever saw his son make the touchdown pass to win the game, remembering years of practice in the backyard, has ever been more proud.

Jesus takes a somewhat harsher tone about money. “You cannot serve God and mammon.” The Pharisees sneered at him. They thought that he was simplistic. They see no contradiction between love of God and love of money. We are on the side of the Pharisees. We compartmentalize our lives. We see nothing wrong with pursuing profit while claiming to worship God. Jesus does. “You justify yourselves in the sight of humans.” Even if we can make the most convincing and solid excuses in favor of money, they mean nothing. “For what is exalted among humans is an abomination in the sight of God.” How very many things are like this, not only money! We think they are compatible with worshiping God. We have convincing arguments that there is no reason to give them up as Christians, but we are wrong. A half-hearted Christian is an abomination in the sight of God.