Letter for the Third Sunday of Lent

Fr. Rodolfo D. Vasquez

"Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace". (Jn. 2:16b)

In the passion of the Lord one particular event is most heartbreaking; it is the account of the betrayal by Judas Iscariot, one of the Lord’s disciples. Judas was consumed by his love of money. The accounts of the Gospels describe him as "a thief" because "having charge of the money bag he used to help himself to what was put into it." (Jn. 12:6) His ultimate act of turning from Jesus was his willingness to sell Jesus for "thirty pieces of silver." (Mt. 26:15). Perhaps we should not to be surprised at this treachery. Money and the love of money has always been the real idol worshiping that everyone can easily be tempted to embrace. It is the most dangerous of temptations we face because the "love of money is the root of all evil." (1 Tim 6:10). Jesus saw this tendency in us and warned us of it countless times. When he arrived at the temple, the money changers had turned the House of the Father upside down, no longer a house of prayer, but "a marketplace" (Jn 2:16b). He sternly warned us that we could not serve both "God and mammon" (Mt. 6:24).

The Papal Household preacher, Fr. Raniero Cantalemessa (cf. Good Friday Homily 2014). suggests that the rival to God is not Satan. The true "anti-God" is actually "mammon" or "money" because "money is the visible god in contrast to the God who is invisible". Money becomes an idol, a graven image, the "molten god" (Ex. 34:17) that the 2nd commandment of the Law of Moses warned us against making. The love of money corrupts, it distorts our perception of reality because it forms a false reality an "inversion of all values". The real poverty is the enslavement to this false god. In Jesus’ parable to the rich man who spent his life storing up so much wealth he says: "Fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?" (Lk. 12:20) The worship of money makes us so depraved that we turn the God’s House of Prayer into a marketplace. This is why St. Francis of Assisi rejected all possessions and chose to become a poor beggar, because only when freed from the temptation to worship money could he freely become a child of God.

As we continue our examination of conscience we focus our attention on the destructive nature of the idolatry of money by considering a few questions: Have I given into love of money? Do I succumb to its false promises of security and freedom? Am I driven by seeking out money and possessions to the extent that I sacrifice my Christian values, right from wrong, and good from evil? Is my love for money so great that it has caused conflict and strife among my loved ones? Has money transfixed me to the extent that I can see nothing more than the need or desire for more money? Have I become a slave to money? Do I value people based on how much money they have, making friends with only those who have wealth? Have I become greedy and envious of those with more than me? Has my greed made me incapable of sharing with others? Has it made me poor in my generosity? Have I taken or made unfair use of money for my own benefit?

Judas’ betrayal was not an act of treachery because he hated the Lord, rather it was because he loved money more. He gave his weak fidelity to thirty pieces of silver, the modern day equivalent to no more than twenty dollars. Could we be so tempted to be obsessed with money that we betray the Lord? Would we allow money to make us traitors to our spouses, our children, our parents, our family, or our friends? Greater is the value of the commandments of God; "more precious than gold and the heap of purest gold" (Ps. 19:10). During this Lent, let us be honest about our attitude toward money. Let us learn that money must never master us, for if it does, it will lead to our corruption.

Fr. Vásquez

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