Catholics are uniquely at odds with the accumulation of personal wealth. Perhaps, it is because the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles suggest a vocational lifestyle of communal frugality as the path towards salvation. The Acts of the Apostles, chapter2, verses 44-45 provides a microcosmic glance at the life of the early Church:
And all who shared the faith owned everything in common; they sold their goods and possessions and distributed the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed.
Contemporary Catholics are not inclined to live a communal life; however, they are as part of the manifestation of the faith encouraged to share their resources with those in the Church that are not as privileged with material possessions and personal wealth. Thus, the dilemma for the modern Christian, to accumulate wealth or to live a life of austerity and frugality.
There is indeed a dualism for the modern faithful Catholic that is only resolved with an acute understanding of the vocational responsibilities of all the faithful, namely to provide for ourselves and our families and to share personal resources with those in need. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches there is a human solidarity between all peoples and that the Christian is called to participate in the solidarity among peoples through friendship and social charity. (1939 CCC) With, the Church then promotes human solidarity as firstly manifested in the workplace and the remuneration for work, goods and service. (1940 CCC)
Wealth accumulated from workplace is intended not just as a temporal instrument for the development of the faith, it is also an instrument that provides for a deeper spiritual relationship between peoples. Solidarity in the faith is enhanced by the positive usage of individual wealth when it is freely shared and given to others. Matthew 6:33 clearly illustrates the true motivation for the faithful believer: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” With this as the operating principle of solidarity among all peoples, only then can the contemporary Catholic understand that the accumulation of personal wealth is not contradictory to the faith, it enhances the experience of faith by sharing personal resources with those that are in needs of financial and spiritual support. Money for Catholics is not the goal it is the means through which they are able to practice the faith and enable others to experience Christ in the shared resources of others.
As Catholics, we have an aversion to the accumulation of wealth, and we should if the wealth is not used as a resource intended to freely share with others around us. The relationship of wealth and Catholics is awkward simply because we are called to a transcendent understanding of life in Christ. In reality, good Catholic stewardship of financial resources calls us to a spirituality of detachment from a personal preoccupation with the accumulation of temporal wealth.
Good Catholics should view money as a resource intended to be shared with others and be detached from excessive desires for personal wealth. After all, all of our works and deeds are designed to proclaim and live the message of the Gospel, not shackle us to our temporal possessions. We are in the world but are called to a lifestyle not of this world. Discernment of the real value of money and material possessions is the real wake-up call for all Catholics. Share the faith, share the wealth! Such a axiomatic proclamation will get us all to eternal life!
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