21 September 2013

NOT A MERE CLICHE

The Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 16:1-13 (Amos 8:4-7 / Ps 113 / 1 Tim 2:1-8)

Let us reflect on what always has someone but not everyone has: money.  Four clichés about money: (1.) “Money changes everything”; (2.) “Money makes the world go round”; (3.) “When money speaks everybody listens”; (4.) “Money is the root of all evil.”  Are these sayings true?  What can we learn from them?

Does money really change everything?  The answer is best found in each of us.  Our lifestyle, viewpoint, and attitude tell if the abundance of money, the sufficiency of it, or the lack of it truly change everything.  However, a change is not always bad.  Nonetheless, we know that while a change may be for the better, it may also be for the worse.  In all cases, we always need to ask our selves three questions regarding any change in us: Is money the reason?  What type of changed is it – for the better or for the worse?  Why the change?  If indeed money changes everything, these questions are very important not only for our material wellbeing but, most importantly, for our spiritual welfare as well.

How about the saying, “Money makes the world go round” – is it true?  If it is, then that must be the reason why many people are tired even of life itself.  Without money, the world already rotates; with money, it spins.  And the world does not stop from spinning even if we want it to.  It also seems to spin without any sense at all.  Too sad, the length of one’s life is directly proportional to the speed of one’s world.  This must be the reason why, compared to our grandparents’ lifetime, we of the present generation tend to grow old faster as our life span becomes shorter.  We often hear from our elders that in their days people work in order to live.  But what do we see today?  People live in order to work.  Thus, quite a number of us are in the prime of their lives yet, but they opt for so-called “early retirement” because they experience extreme fatigue.  Several times already, I said funeral Masses of relatively young people where I inquired their cause of death.  “Namatay po sa pagod,” one of the family members would say.  “Napasma po,” in another instance I was told.  All related to fatigue.  We better slow down before we follow suit.  And having much money, we know by experience, does not help us slow down.  Worse, slavish pursuit of money is suicide.

The third cliché: “When money speaks everybody listens”.  This cliché sounds true for several reasons.  We tend to listen more attentively to rich people even when they talk nonsense.  We seem to be easily impressed with people of considerable wealth even if they are not praiseworthy at all.  The moneyed has a ready audience always.  The rich get a following without much effort at all.  The more money one has, the more powerful he or she is.  But the poor is always weak and exploited.  Poor people hardly get any hearing even if they are already shouting.  In all cultures, the lack of money is apparently an assurance of being misunderstood, misjudged, and maltreated.  While the law dictates that one is presumed innocent until proven otherwise, poverty has a way of making the poor look guilty in the eyes of the many without his right for a day in court.  That is, of course, if he ever gets a day in court.  For without money, will his case be heard at all?  When money speaks everybody listens and the poor has no money.  When money speaks everybody listens and the rich has plenty of money.  And there are those who are willing to do more than listening to the moneyed; they allow themselves to be bribed, bought like any commodity in the market.

The most misunderstand and often misquoted is the fourth cliché: “Money is the root of all evil.”  Is money really evil?  True, money carries germs and therefore dirty, but is it evil?  It was St. Paul the Apostle who wrote something closest to this fourth cliché.  In his first letter to Timothy, chapter 6, verse 10, St. Paul wrote, “The love of money is the root of all evil.”  Money, therefore, is not the root of all evil but the love of it.  Clearly, the problem is not with having or not having money but with money having you.  The love of money is obsession with money.  Obsession with money is being a slave of money.  Being a slave of money is idolatry.  The thing is, the rich and the poor alike can be slaves of money.  Christians and non-Christians alike can be obsessed with money.  The laity and the clergy alike can be guilty of this idolatry.  We must therefore be vigilant not only with how our money comes out from our pockets but how it goes in there!  Money is a good slave but a very bad master.  Use money; don’t love it.

People often say that “money changes everything,” “money makes the world go round,” “when money speaks everybody listens,” and “money is the root of all evil.”  These clichés are not always correct, but they are not always wrong, too.  In other words, it depends.  It depends on what?  No, it depends on whom.  It depends on you and me.  We make these clichés true or false.  If money leads us to sin, let us not blame money; examine our selves instead.  If money is our downfall – both spiritual and otherwise – let us not burn money; discipline our selves instead.  But if money has taken the place of God in our life, then it is better for us to be poor.

There is only one saying that we are sure to be always right and never wrong. Unfortunately though, too often, we either take it lightly or forget it all together.  Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters.  He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.”  We, must, therefore choose whose servants are. And just as our choices define us so too does our decision whom to serve in this life determine in whose kingdom we shall dwell forever in the next.

“You cannot serve both God and mammon,” Jesus declares.  And that is not a mere cliché.

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