Friday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
The first reading today (1 Timothy 6:2-12) can sting a bit. Paul says, “Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction.” The American Dream seems blatantly contrary to what Paul says here. The American Dream is about getting rich and having a nice life. So, can one be a Christian and be rich? On the surface, the answer seems clearly ‘no.’ However, there needs to be some nuance here. If we stop at this verse, we might think that having wealth (of any amount) is evil.
Being rich in itself is not a bad thing, but the love of money is what Paul is really targeting here. He continues, “For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains.” It is the love of money that is twisted, not money itself. Clearly, people can do a lot of good with money, such as the women mentioned in today’s Gospel who provided for Jesus and his disciples out of their means (Luke 8:1-3). To be holy then requires what St. Ignatius of Loyola would call detachment, where there is no preference for riches or poverty but only to serve and love God first. We can use whatever means for that end, but things go askew once the means become an end in themselves. What is my relationship with material things and wealth? Do I love money or others? No matter what I have, how can I use that as a means toward a Godly end?