As the pearls are linked together by a string so are the virtues of charity that make us rich of God (St. Pius of Pietralcina)
1) To accumulate the Good not goods.
In the first reading of the Roman Liturgy, three forms of vanity are identified: the sterility of human effort, the fragility of the achieved results and the many abnormalities and injustices of life. In the Gospel Jesus speaks about a rich man satisfied for his wealth that is being told “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you”. ( Lk 12;20). This speculator was not very clever. In fact he had not ”invested” well. The Redeemer doesn’t limit himself to verify the vanity, the lack of foundation and the uncertainty of material goods. I don’t believe that the Messiah intent is simply to disenchant man in making him free from the fascination of ownership. Christ indicates more deeply the true way of liberation.” Thus will be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God” ( Lk 12:21). It is the “for oneself” that is wrong and must be substituted with another orientation, in front of God.
What does this mean practically? I think the explanation is in the verses that follow the ones of today’s liturgy. Three teachings are visible in those verses. To become rich in front of God means not to fall into the temptation of anxiety if as everything depends on us. To become rich in front of God means to subordinate all – work, goods, and life- to God’s Kingdom. To become rich in front of God means “to give alms”. The “in front of” God becomes “for the others”. To become rich in itself is to become prisoner of vanity. On the contrary charity, fraternity and love are values that never fail.
Among the many saints of poverty that have enriched the Church I’d like to point out two.
The first one is Saint John Maria Vianney, the Saint Cure d’Ars. I’d like to mention him because today is the liturgical memory of this humble and poor pastor. At his time Ars was a small village of approximately 2000 inhabitants. He was a true follower of Saint Francis of Assisi as disciple in the Third Order of Saint Francis. Rich in the Good he donated his goods to the others. He lived in poverty with an absolute detachment from the goods of the world and his heart, totally free, opened to all the material and spiritual miseries that came to him. “My secret” he used to say” is very simple: to give all and not to keep anything”. His lack of interest made him very attentive towards the poor and above all those of his parish to whom he showed an extreme sensitivity treating them “with true tenderness, many cares and, one must say, with respect”. He recommended that we must never disrespect the poor because such disrespect falls on God. When the poor knocked at his door he was happy to be able to say “I’m as poor as you are. Today I’m one of you!” At the end of his life he used to say ” I’m very happy, I don’t have anything and the good God can call me whenever He likes”. For him the poor were also the sinners that came to him from all over France. He gave them the charity of the forgiveness of God and of the peace of heart.
The second one is Saint Omobono Tucenghi, patron of my dioceses of Cremona. While I beg your pardon for this bit of parochialism, I’d like to say that he is a saint applicable to today’s theme because from the beginning the Church has called him “ Father of the Poor”, “consoler of the afflicted”, “ man of peace and peacemaker” “ good man named and made”. You could object that he is a medieval saint, far away in time. However I’d like to propose him because he is really meaningful. This saint from Cremona is the first and only lay people and a married merchant that has been canonized in the Middle Age. At the end of the XII century it was not easy for a lay person married and deep into business, not belonging to a royal or noble family to be proclaimed Saint and that was done less than two years after his death on November 13, 1197.
Saint Omobono (Good Man in Italian) Tucenghi had truly paid homage to his name. He was a clever man that had shown great talent in business becoming rich and respected in a time when in Cremona the textile industry was one of the main activity that had made the city wealthy. At the time when, like today, money and commerce were the center of city life, Omobono combined justice and charity. He made charity a sign of sharing with the spontaneity with which he, because of the continuous contemplation of the Crucifix, learned to testify the value of life as a gift.
From looking at Christ came his sainthood that made him understand that the money gained was not his only, but belonged by right to the poor and particularly to the poor children of his town.
He transformed his house in a “welcoming house’ and consecrated himself to the burial of the abandoned dead. His generosity was so well known that still today when a request is exaggerated, we say” I don’t have the money of Saint Omobono”. Tradition says that his money never finished so that he was able to donate continuously.
He died in church at the singing of the Gloria while attending Mass as he used to do every day.
Every year we celebrate the feast of Transfiguration. This year it will be on August 6.
Christ’s Transfiguration is well known. On the transfigured face of Jesus, who had ascended Mount Tabor with Peter and James, shone a ray of the divine light that He was keeping in his soul. This same light shone again on Christ’s face on the day of the Resurrection. For this reason Transfiguration is an anticipation of the Pascal mystery. Transfiguration invites us to open the eyes of the heart over the mystery of God’s light present in the whole history of liberation. We must contemplate the Lord with eyes of faith as Pope Francis’ encyclical Lumen Fidei teaches. Poor eyes of faith that look at Christ, poor on the Cross, so that we can look at the Father and at the world as He does. (Lumen Fidei, 56)
Our transfiguration is a gift and an assignment. We have an example of it in the Consecrated Virgins who with their life are called to be special witnesses of the Presence of God who is light and gives light.
The virgin person remains a witness of a divine presence.
The Virgins have committed themselves to live the participation to Christ’s mystery in the body and in the spirit. From this comes the fact that the virgin is a constant demonstration of the transfiguring divine presence in the world. The necessity of consecrated virginity is born from here. We cannot oppose tomorrow’s sky to today’s earth. The world is one; there are no two worlds. The world is only one but for us that do not live yet a human transfiguration, the divine world stays hidden. We believe in it but it remains hidden.
The Virgins reveal it and in their poverty of life are ‘rich” of God. “It is in You that they have all because it is You that they prefer to all” (Rite of the Consecration of the Virgins, 24; at the end of the solemn prayer of consecration). Christ’s poverty was fundamental, continuous and wanted: “On his naked body on the Cross the signs of his love were visible and readable for all” ( Primo Mazzolari, The Way of the Cross of the Poor, Rome 1977, page 143). We can be enriched by this love if we become poor and ask for it as it is testified by the Consecrated Virgins.
Reading almost patristic
The homage of Benedict XVI to the poverty of Saint Francis
“It was April 1207 in an Italy full of sun. It was the month in which Saint Francis of Assisi had been disinherited and repudiated by his father. He didn’t have anything anymore. Not even the dress he was wearing was his. However he had something that nobody could take away from him. It had the love of God to whom he could say” Father” in a totally new way”. He knew that this was more than to have the entire world. His heart was full of a great joy and singing he was walking through the Umbrian woods.
While Saint Francis was going by Gubbio, suddenly from the forest came two bandits who wanted to rob him. Surprised by his look they asked” Who are you?” He answered” I’m the herald of the Great King”.
Francis of Assisi was not a priest, but remained a deacon his all life. What he said however in that moment is a profound description of what is and what should be a priest: he is the herald of the Great King and the announcer of God’s lordship that must expand into the heart of every man and of the entire world.
The herald will go along his way not always singing. Sometimes he will because the good God gives to the priest moments in which with surprise and joy, he recognizes the great assignment that God had given to him. However against this herald come the bandits that don’t like the announcement. They are the uninterested ones who don’t ever have time for God, those who if God would call them, would always have something else to do. Then come the ones who say that there is no need to build churches but houses, and to whom it is however right that movie theaters and other places of amusement are built.’ (From Volume 12 of the Opera Omnia of Joseph Ratzinger)
XVIII Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C—August 4, 2013
Ecc 1:2; 2:21-23; Ps 90; Col3:1-5.9-11; Lk 12:13-21
The true wealth is Christ, the true Good
XI Sunday of Pentecost
1Kings 21:1-19; Ps 5; Rm 12:9-18; Lk 16:19-31
Lazarus and the Rich Man, poor in charity