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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

"They were all filled with the Holy Spirit"(Acts 2:4) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month


Divine Call

Avarice: the colourful deceit of money

By Fr. Jacob Arimpur VC

St Thomas Aquinas defines avarice as the unreasonable or immoderate desire for riches. It is a cardinal sin and that means it causes many more sins to come in. It is more to be dreaded in that it often cloaks itself as a virtue, or creeps into our lives under the pretext of making a decent provision for the future. Look anywhere and the consumerist culture makes us discontent with what we have and entice us to want more than we can afford. Driven by advertising, we are anxious to possess and to hold onto our possessions once we have them.

The stark choice

Our culture worships ‘success,’ often defined in avaricious terms. We work long hours, sacrificing family and friends, in order to achieve the level of salary and ownership we believe will satisfy this idol, but the rat race distracts us from the most important things in life, leaving us alone and empty. When the economy collapses and our rewards are not forthcoming, we are outraged. Possessions give the illusion of self-sufficiency, but the more we reach for security, the further off it slips. In fact, we are absolutely dependent on God for our very being and for everything we have. Jesus gave us a stark choice. We can love either God or Mammon, but not both (Mt 6:24). Indeed, He said, 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” (Mt 19:24).
Is Jesus saying that everyone should be dirt poor, not knowing if they will be able to feed their children the next day? No! The problem is not with the possessions but with the preoccupation with those possessions; with trusting our bank accounts instead of trusting God. The proper response to avarice is a balanced use of the good things God has given us.

Like all the deadly sins, avarice is a temptation for every person, not just the wealthy. It is possible for the poor to be slaves of avarice, if they are filled with a grasping desire for money or if they store up possessions (however inexpensive) beyond their actual need.

The healing balm

Jesus offers liberation from this vice. The Good News is that our worth is conferred by God, not by our achievements or possessions. This is a balm to the hearts of all who are riddled with anxiety about their place in the world. Jesus specifically tells us not to be anxious about our lives, because God knows and will provide what we need (perhaps less than we want) for ourselves and our family (Mt 6:25-33).

These blessings come with a responsibility to share with those who are in need. The avaricious heart is often hardened against the needs of the poor, even the poor in their own families. If families don’t help each other, who will they help? There are ways to soften this hard heartedness and break the power of avarice. Almsgiving, which should be a regular practice. Eating less and sharing the extra with those in need is another concrete way of breaking free from the grip of avarice. Like the rich man, we are called to share with Lazarus, wherever we find him (Lk 16:19-31).

How do you use your property?

Private ownership is good but how you use it makes the difference. Use it for common good. In your disposal of private property, the common good should be uppermost in your mind. It has its root in creation. God is the creator of all things. God created all things for the common use. We are called to be the stewards of these things. St Ambrose of Milan says, “If you have two shirts in your closet then one belongs to you and the other belongs to the man who has no shirt.” It is only through generosity that we can conquer this evil. Pope Leo XII teaches, “Once the demands of necessity and propriety have been met, the rest belongs to the poor.” It may not be possible for us all of a sudden but if we have the desire to attain such a sense of radical detachment to which Lord Jesus is calling us then we have to at least begin by taking small steps. For instance when you want to buy something (car, furniture) find the one you like and can afford and buy the one priced lower down and give the difference to the poor. Or you can put a ‘poor box’ by your door. Put a coin into the box every time you go out and come in to the house. It doesn’t matter how small the amount is. Steps like these when done regularly will surely bring in the attitude of giving rather than clinging on to what we have. Divine life is destroyed when we hold on to our treasures. The prodigal son said, “Father, give me, my share of the inheritance coming to me.” He tried to grab but lost. It is rather by giving away that the divine life is found.

Prayer Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labour and not to ask for reward, save that of knowing that I do your will - St Ignatius of Loyola


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Divine Retreat - Divine Call Archive
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Date: May 20 - 25, 2018

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