“Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God!’ The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, ‘Then who can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.’” (Mark 10: 23-27)
“But when on a certain day the Gospel was read in that church, how the Lord sent his disciples out to preach, the holy man of God, assisting there, understood somewhat the words of the Gospel; after Mass he humbly asked the priest to explain the Gospel to him more fully. When he had set forth for him in order all these things, the holy Francis, hearing that the disciples of Christ should not possess gold or silver or money; nor carry along the way scrip, or wallet, or bread, or a staff; that they should not have shoes, or two tunics; but that they preach the kingdom of God and penance, immediately cried out exultingly; ‘This is what I wish, this is what I seek, this is what I long to do with all my heart.’” (Thomas of Celano, First Life of Saint Francis: 22)
In my recent blog surfing, I came across a reference to a CNN story that was posted on December 25, 2009. The story was about the Christian preachers and pastors who advocate the “prosperity Gospel.” The more I read the story, the more I could not believe what they were preaching. They believe that Jesus was not poor, but rich; and anyone who faithfully follows this view of Jesus, will be blessed by God with wealth. Now CNN had some theologians, including Luke Timothy Johnson, dispute these claims. But these preachers, some of whom pastor mega churches, will not hear of it. I wonder if they skip over the Gospel passages, like the one above from the Gospel according Mark, that talk about the dangers of riches, of the need to empty oneself, take up ones’ cross and follow Jesus. How they must gloss over these passages.
Actually, this question of whether Jesus, Mary and Joseph were poor or rich has come up before. When the mendicant Orders, especially the Franciscans, were coming into being, they claimed that in practicing evangelical poverty, they were following the example of the poor Jesus. There were opponents to the Franciscans, who disputed the claim that Jesus and Mary were that poor. It was finally resolved in the Franciscans favor.
Still there are those who would say that the churches themselves has not always followed the poor Jesus; and sadly there is something to say about that statement; especially when one looks at the Catholic Church, past and present. But the Church still preaches that Jesus came to empty Himself in the service of all, that He came for the poor and wounded. And through His sacrifice on the cross and His Resurrection, he gave us something more precious than gold, silver or jewels. He brought us salvation and eternal life.