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Money and man

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

Money, business and finance appear very prominently in the readings for this Sunday.

If we ever took a course in Economics, we may remember that it is about human actions carried out to satisfy multiple wants and needs with scarce resources. At the center of economic decisions is the person. The study of monetary issues is certainly part of it. Economists consider money as a means of payment, a unit of account and a store of value. In the age of paper money and cryptocurrencies lacking intrinsic value, it is even more evident that it is not a good in itself. That is why, corporate decisions as well as the formulation of economic policy ought to have the human person at the center, as St. John Paul explained when he commemorated the centennial of Rerum Novarum.

“During the last hundred years the Church has repeatedly expressed her thinking, while closely following the continuing development of the social question. She has certainly not done this in order to recover former privileges or to impose her own vision. Her sole purpose has been care and responsibility for man, who has been entrusted to her by Christ himself: for this man, whom, as the Second Vatican Council recalls, is the only creature on earth which God willed for its own sake, and for which God has his plan, that is, a share in eternal salvation. We are not dealing here with man in the “abstract”, but with the real, “concrete”, “historical” man. We are dealing with each individual, since each one is included in the mystery of Redemption, and through this mystery Christ has united himself with each one for ever. It follows that the Church cannot abandon man, and that “this man is the primary route that the Church must travel in fulfilling her mission … the way traced out by Christ himself, the way that leads invariably through the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption”…

Today, the Church’s social doctrine focuses especially on man as he is involved in a complex network of relationships within modern societies. The human sciences and philosophy are helpful for interpreting man’s central place within society and for enabling him to understand himself better as a “social being”. However, man’s true identity is only fully revealed to him through faith, and it is precisely from faith that the Church’s social teaching begins. While drawing upon all the contributions made by the sciences and philosophy, her social teaching is aimed at helping man on the path of salvation…

The Church receives “the meaning of man” from Divine Revelation. “In order to know man, authentic man, man in his fullness, one must know God”, said Pope Paul VI, and he went on to quote Saint Catherine of Siena, who, in prayer, expressed the same idea: “In your nature, O eternal Godhead, I shall know my own nature”.

As far as the Church is concerned, the social message of the Gospel must not be considered a theory, but above all else a basis and a motivation for action. Inspired by this message, some of the first Christians distributed their goods to the poor, bearing witness to the fact that, despite different social origins, it was possible for people to live together in peace and harmony. Through the power of the Gospel, down the centuries monks tilled the land, men and women Religious founded hospitals and shelters for the poor, Confraternities as well as individual men and women of all states of life devoted themselves to the needy and to those on the margins of society, convinced as they were that Christ’s words “as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40) were not intended to remain a pious wish, but were meant to become a concrete life commitment.

Today more than ever, the Church is aware that her social message will gain credibility more immediately from the witness of actions than as a result of its internal logic and consistency. This awareness is also a source of her preferential option for the poor, which is never exclusive or discriminatory towards other groups. This option is not limited to material poverty, since it is well known that there are many other forms of poverty, especially in modern society—not only economic but cultural and spiritual poverty as well. The Church’s love for the poor, which is essential for her and a part of her constant tradition, impels her to give attention to a world in which poverty is threatening to assume massive proportions in spite of technological and economic progress. In the countries of the West, different forms of poverty are being experienced by groups which live on the margins of society, by the elderly and the sick, by the victims of consumerism, and even more immediately by so many refugees and migrants. In the developing countries, tragic crises loom on the horizon unless internationally coordinated measures are taken before it is too late.

Love for others, and in the first place love for the poor, in whom the Church sees Christ himself, is made concrete in the promotion of justice. Justice will never be fully attained unless people see in the poor person, who is asking for help in order to survive, not an annoyance or a burden, but an opportunity for showing kindness and a chance for greater enrichment. Only such an awareness can give the courage needed to face the risk and the change involved in every authentic attempt to come to the aid of another. It is not merely a matter of “giving from one’s surplus”, but of helping entire peoples which are presently excluded or marginalized to enter into the sphere of economic and human development. For this to happen, it is not enough to draw on the surplus goods which in fact our world abundantly produces; it requires above all a change of lifestyles, of models of production and consumption, and of the established structures of power which today govern societies. Nor is it a matter of eliminating instruments of social organization which have proved useful, but rather of orienting them according to an adequate notion of the common good in relation to the whole human family…

Therefore, in order that the demands of justice may be met, and attempts to achieve this goal may succeed, what is needed is the gift of grace, a gift which comes from God. Grace, in cooperation with human freedom, constitutes that mysterious presence of God in history which is Providence.

The newness which is experienced in following Christ demands to be communicated to other people in their concrete difficulties, struggles, problems and challenges, so that these can then be illuminated and made more human in the light of faith. Faith not only helps people to find solutions; it makes even situations of suffering humanly bearable, so that in these situations people will not become lost or forget their dignity and vocation.”

Fr. Roberto M. Cid