28th Sunday In Ordinary Time
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: October 10, 2021
When is the last time that you did a good examination of conscience? In the past this was something Catholics did regularly to prepare for Confession. They would do an examination of conscience to prepare for what they were going to confess in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But a good and honest self examination is important if we are going to be wise and live life in a good meaningful way. What kind of questions would you include in an examination of conscience?
One thing that is usually missing in many examinations of conscience, at least in my experience, are questions about my use of money. But, money is clearly something extremely important in our lives and therefore our attitude toward money and decisions about money are crucial in our being a disciple of Jesus.
The man in today’s Gospel runs to Jesus and asks “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He is indirectly asking Jesus to provide him with an examination of conscience that will guide him in leading a good and holy life. Jesus begins where most of our basic examinations of conscience begin, with the Ten Commandments. It seems that this man had been trying to live a good life and follow the commandments. Then Jesus pushes him further, “go sell what you own, give the money to the poor.… then come follow me.” The man was shocked, he went away grieving, went away sad. He had many possessions. He was not free, he was clinging to his possessions, he was trapped by them. He did not own his possessions, his possessions owned him.
A good examination of conscience should challenge us to reflect on our attitude to our possessions and money.
- Do we own our possessions and money or do they own us?
- Does greed and clinging to these possessions and money dominate all of our decisions?
- If someone was to see how we use our money, what would it say about what really matters to us?
- Is fighting over money or possessions leading to divisions within family, with friends?
- What do we treasure most in our life? If there was a fire and we had to leave our house quickly, what would we choose to take with us?
When we are making decisions about how we are using our money, do we pray about it? Do we ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in making these decisions?
In the news this past week, there is the report from the Pandora Papers. It is a leak of information about tax havens and places where money is kept offshore to hide it for tax purposes or criminal reasons. Billionaires, extremely wealthy people, world leaders find ways to hide their wealth to insure they do not need to pay taxes. Sometimes it is illegal, but primarily it is utterly unethical.
In these cases, wealth and money has become more important than anything else. The result of these tax havens is that trillions of dollars are not available to countries to support society in terms of health care, education, supports for housing, the poor and so on. The same people who do this are those who complain about governments spending money on the poor, on the disabled, on health care for everyone, on climate change.
Our decisions and attitude towards money is not just an individual matter. As a society, as a human family in this world, we need conversion, we need to change attitudes. We need to bring in policy that does not allow the richest among us to exploit the system so that many are left without basics for a dignified life. Greed, that sees money as the most important thing, results in great harm to human society. It is now leading to great harm to our planet which is our common home.
All of us should do a good examination of conscience which includes looking at my attitude towards money and wealth, that reviews how I use my money and wealth. Like the man in today’s Gospel, Jesus may be challenging us to look at this aspect of our life. Jesus loves us and does not want us to leave grieving and sad like that man. Jesus wants us to remain free and not to be possessed by our money and possessions.