As we head into the Lenten season, Pope Francis has invited us to reflect on our relationship to God and to money, as we can’t serve both masters at the same time. His words came on Tuesday during morning Massin the Casa Santa Marta.
Speaking about the message of the Gospel readings in these days leading up to the beginning of Lent, Pope Francis recalled the story of the rich young man who wanted to follow the Lord, but whose wealth led him to follow money instead.
Jesus’ words in this story worry the disciples, as he tells them it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. In today’s reading from St Mark’s Gospel, the Pope said, we see Peter asking the Lord what will happen to them, as they have given up everything to follow him. “It’s almost as if Peter is passing Jesus the bill,” Pope Francis exclaimed.
Peter didn’t know what to say: the young man has gone his way, but what about us? Pope Francis said Jesus’ reply is clear: I tell you there is no-one who has given up everything and has not received everything. You will receive everything, in that overflowing measure with which God gives his gifts.
The Pope repeated the Gospel words: “there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel, who will not receive a hundred times more, now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come”.
The Lord is incapable of giving less than everything, the Pope said: when he gives us something, he gives all of himself.
Yet there is a word in this reading, he continued, which gives us cause for reflection: in this present age we receive a hundred times more houses and brothers, together with persecutions. The Pope said this means entering into a different way of thinking, a different way of behaving. Jesus gives everything of himself, because the fullness of God is a fullness emptied out on the Cross.
This is the gift of God, the Pope insisted, a fullness which is emptied out. This is also the Christian’s way of being, to seek and receive a fullness which is emptied out and to follow that path is not easy, he stressed. How do we recognize that we are following this path of giving everything in order to receive everything, he asked? The words of the first reading of the day tell us to “pay homage to the Lord, and do not spare your freewill gifts. With each contribution show a cheerful countenance, and pay your tithes in a spirit of joy. Give to the Most High as he has given to you, generously, according to your means”.
A cheerful face and eyes full of joy, the Pope said, these are the signs that we’re following this path of all and nothing, of fullness emptied out. The rich young man’s face fell and he became very sad, because he was not capable of receiving and welcoming this fullness emptied out, but the saints and Peter were able to receive it. Amid all their trials and difficulties, they had cheerful faces and hearts full of joy.
Pope Francis concluded by recalling the Chilean saint Alberto Hurtado who worked with the poor amidst such difficulty, persecution and suffering, yet his words were ’I’m happy, Lord, I’m happy’. May he teach us to follow this difficult path of all and nothing, of Christ’s fullness emptied out, and to be able to say at all times ’I’m happy, Lord, I’m happy’