By Matthew A. Rarey
“God can win the heart of a person who has many goods,” the pontiff said during his mid-day Angelus from his window overlooking a sunny St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 14.
The Pope addressed a crowd of thousands, packed with Church leaders and pilgrims here in Rome since last week’s start of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization and the Church’s Year of Faith.
He based his remarks upon today’s Gospel reading about the young rich man who wanted to follow Christ but walked away sorrowful.
“He was a person who from his youth faithfully observed all the commandments of God's law, but had not yet found true happiness, and for this he asks Jesus how to ‘inherit life eternal,’” said the Pope.
“On the one hand he is attracted, like everyone else, to the fullness of life; and on the other, being accustomed to rely on their own wealth, he thinks that eternal life can be in somehow ‘bought’” by following the forms of God’s law.
Yet the rich young man turned down Christ’s invitation to give all that he had and give it to the poor and come follow Jesus to store up riches in heaven.
“Instead of joyfully welcoming Jesus’ invitation, he goes away grieved because he cannot be detached from his wealth,” the Holy Father said. This attachment “will never give him happiness and eternal life.”
The Pope said that wealth should pose no barrier to salvation, the caveat being doing so with God’s help.
Citing the Gospel reading, the Pope noted Christ’s warning: “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
This statement shocked Christ’s disciples, the Pope noted, reminding the assembly in St. Peter’s Square of Christ’s follow-up: “This is impossible for men but not for God; everything is possible with God.”
The Church is “filled with examples of rich people who have used their assets in an evangelical way and reached holiness,” he added. “Just think of St. Francis, St. Elizabeth of Hungary or St. Charles Borromeo.”
Returning to the Parable of the Rich Man, the pontiff quoted the 2nd century Church Father, St. Clement of Alexandria:
“The parable teaches that the rich should not neglect their salvation as if they were convicted, nor should they jettison wealth nor condemn it as insidious and hostile to life, but they must learn how to use wealth and obtain the life.”
Pope Benedict XVI said that although riches should pose no barrier to serving the Kingdom of God, Christ's love fulfills humanity's deepest needs in a way that wealth is unable to.
Pope Benedict, Angelus