VATICAN CITY, OCT. 27, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II assailed the seduction of the “idolatry of wealth” and success, stressing that God alone can free man from the clutches of death.
“This is one of the constant temptations of humanity: attaching oneself to money, regarding it as endowed with an invincible force; it deludes one into thinking that death can also be bought, removing it from oneself,” the Pope said today in his address to the general audience.
The Holy Father was commenting on the second part of Psalm 48(49), before some 20,000 faithful who defied the rain that drenched St. Peter’s Square.
“In reality, death breaks in with its capacity to demolish all illusions, sweeping away every obstacle, humbling all self-confidence, and sending rich and poor, sovereigns and subjects, the foolish and wise to the next world,” the Pope said. Because of his health, he read only a few passages of his written address.
According to John Paul II, a “realistic and severe” meditation on death, the “inescapable end of human existence,” can be of great help for all, in a society that tries “in every way to ignore this reality, removing it from the horizon of our thought.”
To reflect on death “relativizes so many secondary realities which, unfortunately, we have absolutized, as is, precisely, the case of wealth, success, power,” he continued, quoting the biblical Book of Sirach: “In whatever you do, remember your last days, and you will never sin.”
“If money does not succeed in ransoming us from death, there is one” — God — “who can redeem us from that dark and tragic horizon,” the Pope said.
“Thus, a horizon of hope and immortality opens for the just man,” he added. “The just man, poor and humiliated in history, when he reaches the last frontier of life, is without goods, has nothing to give as ransom to stop death and remove himself from its cold embrace.
“But then the great surprise comes: God himself offers the ransom and snatches his faithful one from the hands of death, as he is the only one who can conquer death, inexorable for human creatures.”
The Holy Father concluded the meditation quoting Jesus’ words in the Gospel according to St. Matthew, when he says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal,” adding “where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”
With his address, the Pontiff continued with his commentaries on the Psalms and canticles that are part of vespers, the evening prayer of the Church. They may be consulted in the Wednesday’s Audience (section of ZENIT’s Web page.