VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Three things steer people away from Christ: wealth, vanity and pride, Pope Francis said at his morning Mass.
“That is why wealth is so dangerous, because it immediately leads you to vanity and you think you are important. And when you think you are important, it goes to your head and you get lost,” the pope said May 26 during the Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
Being Christian demands “stripping down” and letting go of seeking security and hope in material things, he said, according to Vatican Radio.
In fact, “it’s ugly seeing Christians — be they laypeople, consecrated, priests, bishops — it’s ugly when you see them wanting two things: to follow Jesus and riches, to follow Jesus and worldliness,” he said.
A Christian who clings to material things “makes a bad impression,” he said, and that kind of “anti-witness” also distances other people from Christ.
The pope said the disciples at first did not understand what following Jesus really entailed, and some expected or thought it would bring power, prestige or some other earthly benefit.
Instead Jesus told them they would inherit the kingdom of God “with persecution, with the cross.”
“From a human point of view, following Jesus is not a good business deal: it is serving” others, it is being the last and the least, like Jesus, he said.
Following Jesus with generous selflessness, he said, “is the response to the gratuity of love and salvation that Jesus gives us.”
The pope asked that people pray God “teach us this path, this science of service,” humility and being the last in order to serve others.
What Christ gives people in return, he said, “is resembling him. These will be the ‘earnings.’ Great earnings being similar to Jesus!”
The pope’s homily the day before focused on a similar theme. The Gospel reading May 25, Mark 10:17-27, gives the account of the wealthy young man who followed the commandments, but was unable to take the last step of giving what he had to the poor before he could inherit the “treasure in heaven” of eternal life.
The problem, Pope Francis said, is when people cling to their material possessions, they become closed up inside themselves, believing they are God or living “in an earthly paradise.”
But this earthly paradise lacks true joy and an open “horizon” — much like the wealthy neighborhoods in Buenos Aires in the 1970s, he said, where homes were gated and walled off from the world to protect them from robbers.
But just as the young man turned away from Jesus sad and dejected, “attachment to wealth makes us sad and sterile. I say ‘attachment,’ not ‘managing wealth well’ because riches are for the common good, for everyone,” he said.
“If the Lord gives (wealth) to a person, it is so that he may use it for the good of everyone, not for himself, not so he closes up his heart and then becomes corrupt and sad.”
Wealth without generosity robs people of the best they could ever have, which is hope, he said.
The pope said the Gospel, especially the first Beatitude, shows people the right way to live with abundance: “‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,’ that is, strip oneself of this attachment and make it so the riches the Lord has given would be used for the common good.
“It’s the only way. Open your hand, open your heart, open your horizons,” otherwise clinging to wealth makes one blind to others and their needs and distances them from God, he said.