‘How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God’ (Mk. 10:24).
As with many of Our Lord’s sayings, this one is often misinterpreted and seen as a blanket condemnation of those who are wealthy. In order to understand in a deeper manner what Our Lord is actually teaching us it may be helpful first to consider how one can enter the kingdom of God. In St. Luke’s Gospel, Our Lord says, ‘Blessed are you poor for yours is the kingdom of God’ (6:20). At face value it seems that a state of material poverty guarantees entrance in God’s kingdom but this is not the case at all. Nor is Our Lord is beatifying or elevating an entire social class. In the Judaism of Our Lord’s time, the term poor was practically synonymous with holy and pious or godly. In the Gospel, the poor person is the one who is devoted to God, one who by faith has placed all his trust in God. This form of poverty can characterize both the materially poor and the rich alike. Material poverty is a relative term. By God’s grace and through hard work many of us have most if not all of our material needs met. There is no sin in this. The Gospel is not about the redistribution of wealth, and the materially poor by reason of their material poverty alone are not spiritually superior to people of means, as modest as these may be.
The Gospels tell us that Our Lord and His disciples were supported in their ministry through the generosity of women whose names are given: Mary Magdalene…and Joanna…Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means (8: 2-3). The same is true today. The Church’s mission which carries on the mission of Our Lord is aided and supported through the generosity of the faithful. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability (#2043). Our lack or abundance of material wealth is not what determines our closeness to God; it is rather our devotion to God and our trust in Him. The temptation of wealth is that it can cause us to put our trust in something other than God and, of course, wealth can also provide us with many temptations that can lead us away from God. Trusting in God and His Divine Providence is the heart of the Gospel. This disposition of trust is solidly based on the foundation of humility and is expressed by our willingness to take up our cross and follow Our Lord. In a letter written to all the faithful, St. Francis of Assisi, whose feast was celebrated earlier this month, further extrapolates the meaning of this evangelical poverty. We must not be wise and prudent according to the flesh. Rather we must be simple, humble and pure. We should never desire to be over others. Anyone, regardless of wealth can be tempted by the lust of domination.