Sacred Heart

Catholic Church

Imlay City, Michigan  Tel: (810) 724-1135

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Homily
Fr. Paul Ward

Sat. & Sun., Jul. 30 & 31, 2016
18th Sunday in Ord. Time, C

 

Social Doctrine (1/7):
Avarice, Wealth and the
Purpose of Material Things

 

1.    

   Today we shall begin a small series of seven homilies, from now until November, during which we shall study Catholic Social Teaching, as I explained last week. They won’t come in seven Sundays in a row, but will be spread out a bit, as there are other important things about which I need to preach. Each homily will examine one of the seven capital sins, describe its manifestations in society, and demonstrate how the Church’s social teaching provides light, hope and freedom from these sins. Today we start with the capital sin of greed.

   First, a couple details about parish life. I want to again thank our donors, and encourage more households to participate, in our capital campaign. If our contractor stays on schedule, in late August our urgent work on the roof will get underway – thanks to your generous donations! Please keep Sept. 11 on your schedule, a Sunday when we will have our parish picnic. We’ll have the usual games for kids, I invite groups to put out displays of what they do. One parishioner wants to organize a one-day “Pre-Vatican II museum,” inviting those who might have items or prayer books from those days to put them on display for everyone’s cultural and historical enrichment. We’re also organizing a tournament of soccer, where teams, 5-on-5 can compete, so please start organizing your friends now. These and more things are planned. It will be a very enjoyable day, and an opportunity to build up our friendships as parishioners.

   Now to today’s topic. Let us see how greed, or, more precisely, avarice impacts our society, and how the Church shows us all a way out. We begin with the very notion of avarice. Avarice is a disordered desire for any good. Sometimes this inordinate desire is for money, specifically, but it can apply more generally to anything that a man may possess.
[1] One who steals money from others suffers from avarice, but also one who steals clothing or even toys from siblings, or tools from a neighbor’s garage. One can also desire to possess intangible things, meaning, things that aren’t physical and perceptible to the senses. For example, when one is overanxious for popularity, while that is also vainglory, a different capital sin, it is in part avarice; or, more importantly, when a man pants for power over his neighbor, that too falls under avarice.

   This individual moral failing can have consequences in the public square. Politicians are especially exposed to this vice, when they have a disordered desire or enjoyment of power of their fellow citizens, or they tax excessively, or when they steal, embezzle or otherwise abuse of public funds. There is no limit to how many sins of those in power could be enumerated on account of greed. God sees all of these sins in all their truth, and the politician will answer for such things at his last judgment. If he sins, he needs to repent, confess to the priests of the Church, and restore what was stolen, or whatever else damage he did.

   Others besides politicians can fall into this sin. Pop singers can invoke demons to make their music more lucrative; beautiful women movie stars can compromise their own dignity, exposing themselves, out of desire for money; people lie about products they sell; pebbles are added to crop products to increase weight; everyone from human traffickers to cable television providers sell the human body for profit, and at such human cost!

   In the Church’s social teachings, “economic goods and riches are not in themselves condemned, so much as their misuse.”
[2] For man needs money, and honestly earned profit is conducive not only to his material prosperity in this life, but also that of his family, and it puts him in a position to help the poor. By supporting himself, but also his family, his church, his favorite charities, different groups to which he belongs, he shares his wealth in a way well governed by right reason. The proper use of money gives man an opportunity to acquire peace, culture, and virtues like charity and justice. And the Church officially defends the existence and operation of the free market[3] and private property[4] – against socialism – as institutions that guarantee honest production of wealth in goods and services, not only for individuals, but for all.

   Wealth therefore is seen as a means, and never and end. It is a means for a man’s individual good, and also for the common good of particular groups or of the whole world. Wealth belongs to a person, not to a government; for which, it is the person who has obligations of payment to services he receives from his city and state, yet it is not the right of a government to take whatsoever amount a given politician demands for his own greedy purposes. No state or politician, therefore, has a blank check, nor is it the privilege of the state or a politician to dispose of all of the property of any single person.

   The Church sees that all God has made in the material universe is to benefit all men, and that private property is the necessary regulating means for this benefit to come about.
[5] Let each man, therefore, seek honest wealth, not out of love for money, but out of a well ordered love for his own physical and spiritual good, and out of a love for one’s neighbor whom he may serve with generosity and joy. The avarice of individuals tends to precipitate the world into the most horrendous conflicts and abuses that afflict us all; yet if we could all be detached from money, generous with our neighbor, and spiritual in our aspirations, great peace and justice would arise, all of which can happen only through God’s grace, and yet would lead many to great heights of holiness.

   Every worldly thing is a passing thing, a vanity. “Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” (Ecc. 1:2) And as our Lord admonishes us in today’s Gospel, “Take care to guard against all greed” (Lk 12:15). We ask this and every grace through Mary’s intercession. Amen.

 

[1] Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, De Malo, q. XIII, c.

[2] CSDC, 323.

[3] CSDC, 347.

[4] CSDC, 177.

[5] CSDC, 176, ff.

 

 

 

Social Doctrine Homilies

1 of 7 Avarice, Wealth and Purpose of Material Things

2 of 7 Laziness, Sadness and Rational Good

3 of 7 Pride and Vainglory

4 of 7 Envy and Inciting the Poor Man's Envy of the Rich

5 of 7 Wrath, Anger and Reflection on Peace

6 of 7 Gluttony

7 of 7 The Capital Sin of Lust and the Public Square

 
 

 

 

 

 

Compendium of Social Doctrine of the Church, from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Librevia Editrice Vaticana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Archives of Homilies on Elijah during Lent 2016

 

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