Pope Francis dedicated the Mass on Thursday to the “noble Chinese people” who are celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Sheshan, Mother of China.
In his homily, the Holy Father invited us to keep our hearts far away from riches, because they are given to us so that we may give them to others.
Poverty is at the heart of the Gospel
He drew inspiration from the Epistle of James, which tells how the wages that the rich withhold from their workers cries out to God for justice.
Pope Francis said the scripture passage speaks “forcefully” to the rich and is a reminder of what Jesus himself told them.
“‘Woe to you who are rich.’ If someone today were to preach these words, the media the next day would write: ‘That priest is a communist.’ But poverty is at the center of the Gospel. Preaching about poverty is at the heart of Jesus’ message: ‘Blessed are the poor’ is the first of the Beatitudes. It is the identity card with which Jesus presents himself in the Synagogue when he returns to his town of Nazareth. ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.’ But we have historically given in to the weakness of not preaching about poverty, believing it to be a social or political question. No! It is the Gospel, pure and simple.”
Love God with your whole heart
Pope Francis then reflected on why Jesus preaches so forcefully about the issue of poverty. “Riches are a sort of idolatry,” he explained, and lead to “seduction”.
Jesus himself, the Pope said, pointed out that “no servant can serve two masters”. He said riches “capture you and don’t let you observe the first commandment,” which is to love God with your whole heart.
Riches, he said, also “go against the second commandment because they destroy the harmonious relationship between people.”
Pope Francis said some people confuse St. James with a union boss but affirmed that he wrote under “inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”
“Even here in Italy people are left without a job in order to preserve capital investments. This goes against the second commandment, so: ‘Woe to you’, Jesus warns. Woe to you who exploit others and their work by evading taxes, not contributing to their pension funds, and not giving them paid vacation. Woe to you!... If you don’t pay, your injustice is a mortal sin. You are not in God’s grace. It’s not I who say it, but Jesus and James the Apostle. That’s why riches keep you from observing the second commandment, which is love for your neighbor.”
Pray and do penance for the rich
In conclusion, Pope Francis said riches can make people slaves, so all should “pray a little more and do penance” for the rich.
“You are not free regarding riches. To be free regarding riches you must distance yourself from them and pray to the Lord. If the Lord has given you riches, they are to be given away, in order to do many good things for others in His name. But riches often seduce us, and falling into this seduction, we are made slaves to them.”