1 Timothy 6:2c-12
Today’s first reading doesn’t fool around.
No matter how we might like to spin it–many of us being entrenched, as we are here in the United States, in the excessive pursuit of stuff-the reading lays it out clearly:
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 distresses me utterly that at the same there are so many on the current political scene who invoke the name of Jesus so routinely, who so assuredly claim that God is on their side, could in the very same moment refuse to reach out to the dispossessed and advocate instead for a way of life that is self-serving and unjust to so many who are struggling.
Make no mistake. I ask myself this question: Am I willing to give up all that I have and follow Jesus?
The answer, truthfully, is no. I’m scared about my retirement, scared about having enough in the bank if I get ill, scared that I may lose my home at some point and have nowhere to go. And so, flawed person that I am, I do my best. I give what I can to good causes, do what I can as a volunteer (although I could always do more), and remain aware that I am called to a greater good with the knowledge that I will never, surely, be perfect in attaining that good.
But what I do not do is fool myself into believing that the answers are easy, black and white check-off boxes for the modern-day Christian. I mourn the tragic loss of life on 9/11, but how do I ever grieve the hundreds of thousands of innocent lives lost in Iraq and Afghanistan? I am horrified by the faces of emaciated children suffering in Africa, and then frustrated at myself as I ponder whether I have enough cash to make that donation to a local organization serving people who are hungry. Maybe I should wait until next month when my cash flow is better?
What the reading, interestingly, says is that in straying from our faith we pierce ourselves with pain. Yes, we are inflicting psychic, spiritual pain on ourselves when we worship at the altar of our false gods, bought with money and lifted high by a false hope of lasting comfort. But I will be so bold as to add that that pain is nothing, nothing compared to what some people suffer in our world from injustice.
That is the pain whose face we must look at as Christians, and not allow our precious, complicated, heart-breaking faith to be co-opted by callow individuals or self-promoting politicians. There is too much life at stake. And, more importantly, our souls.
Nancy Nickel is director of communications at the Passionist Development Office in Chicago, Illinois.