Be truly poor to be truly rich

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

“THERE was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores…” (Lk 16,19-20)

With this parable, Christ is telling us about the problem of the rich and the blessedness of the poor. As the parable unfolded, both died and the poor man was carried to the bosom of Abraham while the rich man was buried in the netherworld, tormented.

We have to be wary of the big problem of the rich. Christ spelled it out when 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)

The big problem of the rich, in short, is his attachment to his wealth such that he cannot give himself fully to God. He may give the appearance that he is giving a lot, but if it is not the whole of himself, then it is not total self-giving which God deserves and expects from each one of us.

Let us always remember that God wants the whole of ourselves. He wants our entire heart, not a divided heart. He wants to be everything to us, the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega. He wants to be given priority over everything else, including our own life.

This is not selfishness on his part, an act of ego-tripping. It is simply in recognition of the basic truth that everything, including our life, comes from him and also belongs to him. We have no right whatsoever to expropriate as our own what actually comes and belongs to God.

We need to remind ourselves constantly that even if we can say we are the owners of great wealth, resources, talents, power, fame, and indeed of our whole life, we actually are at best only stewards who have to give account to the absolute owner of all these things that we possess.

We have to continually fight against the tendency and the constant temptation to think that all these things are simply our own, that we are their absolute owners. This is not going to be easy, of course, because even within ourselves we have the villain that will always push us to think that way.

To be truly poor in order to be truly rich means that even if we are in possession of great wealth and all that, and yes, we use them and to a certain extent, enjoy them, we should be entirely detached from them so that our love for God is never compromised or diluted even if it is just a bit.

To be sure, a certain detachment from the things of this world and even from people is required of us if we want to be a true and effective disciple of Christ—and to be like Christ as we should.

He himself said it quite clearly: “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14,26-17)

Let’s be reassured of what Christ promised us if we observe the proper priorities in our life. “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for the sake of My name will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” (Mt 19,29)