Au In the beginning was the Word

1. -      The Gospel is good news for the poor (Mt 11, 5; Lk 4,18) and, at the same time, bad news for the rich (Lk 6,24; James 5,1-6). When the rich youngster ignores the Gospel’s call, Jesus comments: How hard is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! Even the disciples were shocked at these words and they ask: Who, then can be saved? Jesus tells them: For humans it is impossible, but not for God, because all things are possible with God. (Mk 10, 17 – 27). Some questions: was the rich youngster requested to do more than other people (sell what you have and give the money to the poor)? Or is it that he was in a special situation (he possessed many goods)?

2. -      Jesus´ message is in the prophet’s line, defenders of the poor. The poor put out alive and universal needs like the bread, the health, the work, the housing, the education, the justice, the freedom. The prophets denounce the trespass against the neighbour, inspired in the eagerness for money: the scandalous differences between rich and poor, the oppression over the feeble, the rapacity of the powerful, the unscrupulous creditors´ tyranny, the merchants´ frauds, the judges´ venality, the priests´ and prophets´ greediness. A society like this cannot last (Is 3,15; 5,8; Am 2, 6-8; 8, 4-6; Ne 5, 1-5; Mic 3,11; Jer 7,9). On his part, John the Baptist does not demand special ascetic practices: he calls for conversion to those who consider themselves all life believers (Lk 3,8). It is necessary to share, to avoid the abuses, do not take advantage of power (Lk 3,10-14).

3. -      The Gospel assumes the Decalogue, but it goes further: you not only will not steal (Dt 5,19) nor will covet the goods of your neighbour (5,21), but you will share your goods. Property is not an unconditional and absolute right for anybody. We can see it in the crafty steward’s parable (Lk 16, 1-15). But, is it true that we have some money that is unjust? The parable presents two key figures: the master and the steward. How do I place myself before the money: like master or like steward?

4. -      In the parable, the steward is reported to the master for a fraudulent service: the steward dissipates his goods. Dismissal is imminent. The steward considers the situation: What am I to do now that my master dismisses me?. So he started to diminish the debts to his master’s debtors. You owe one hundred jars of oil? Write fifty. You owe one hundred bushels of wheat? Write eighty. This done, the master commended the dishonest steward for his astuteness. He could have dismissed him immediately, but he didn’t. The master commended the steward, who even made a good transaction (1 Tim 6,6; 1Co 3,19), a good investment for the future.

5. -            World’s judgment and Gospel’s judgment are here confronted. If, before the money, I place myself like master, then, when I give something, I give what is mine. But, if I place myself like administrator, when I give something, I give what is not mine. So says the Lord: Use filthy money to make friends for yourselves, so that when it fails, these people may welcome you into the eternal homes (Lk 16,9). It is similar to that other passage that says: Get yourselves purses that do not wear out, and make safe investments with God (Lk 12,33). It is an invitation to share the goods, to give (with good management) what overflows the own need (see 1 Tim 6,8; Lev 25,23).

6. -      The Gospel presents us an option: You cannot give yourself both to God and Money (Lk 16, 13). Money is a false and unjust god, an implacable master: it chokes the Word (Mt 13,22), it forces to forget God’s sovereignty (Lk 12, 15,21), prevents the Gospel’s way to the best prepared hearts (Mt 19, 21- 22), it opens social abysms between rich and poor (Lk 16, 19 – 31). The Gospel invites us to give clear signals that our god is not the money (see Mt 6, 24). An opposed attitude is also given, that of the Pharisees, money’s friends: hearing these things, they ridicule Jesus.

7. -      Jesus does not demand, like in Qumran monastery, the delivery of property to the community. It imposes to everybody the renounce neither to goods nor their collectivisation. There are some people that give everything (Mk 10,28) and receive much more (10,30), Zaccheus revise his situation and he gives half of them (Lk 19,8), other one helps with loans (6,34 –35), there are women who follow Jesus and support Him with their own funds (Lk 8,3), and other one makes with Him an, apparently useless, waste  (Mk 14,3 – 9). Nothing is here legally ruled. That is why it needs neither exceptions nor law privileges.

8. -      In the first Christian community no one claimed any of their possessions like his own (Acts 4,32). Their possessions were their own but, in effect, it was like if they weren’t. The first Christians lived together and shared all their belongings; they would sell their property and all they had and they distribute the proceeds to others according to their need (Acts 2, 44 – 45). Human relationship, falsified and reduced to master and slave relationship because of the possession substance, is converted, through the sharing, into fraternity relationship. Hearts communion is an effective possessions sharing.

9. -      Paul’s communities do not present signs as spectacular as those of the first Christian community, the Jerusalem community. But, same spirit is present: there will be no needy person between you (2 Co 8,14; Acts 4,34). With this spirit he organizes a collection for the brothers in Jerusalem, who are in a bad situation. The collection must follow these principles: let each one give what he decided upon personally and not reluctantly as if obliged (2 Co 9,7; see 1 Tim 6,18). Paul calls attention upon some abuses that take place in the Thessalonica community: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat (2 Thes 3,10).

10. -    An old text, Bernabe´s letter, probably written in Alexandria during the first half of the second century, takes us to the origins of the Christian conscience: “You will communicate with your neighbour in everything and you will not say that something is of your property; because if you share what is incorruptible, will not be even more reasonable in the incorruptible matters?” (19,8). The Didache, a catechetical teaching probably written in Syria in the same years, says the same thing. It is important to share, but also to discern: “Let your charity sweat in your hands until you know to whom you are giving” (Didache 1,6).

11. -    Saint John Chrisostomus, named Constantinople’s bishop the year 397 and ceased in 404, affirms the following: “To prevent the participation of the poor in our own goods is to steal them and to take out his life. What we posses is not of our own, but it belongs to them” (Laz 1,6). The second Vatican Council says that in order to satisfy the exigencies of justice it is necessary to eliminate the large social differences (GS 66) and to respect the fundamental personal rights (GS 26 y 76).

12. -    For centuries, the Gospel’s social message got into the shadows to even reach a total negation of it. In a lamentable situation like this Church’s social doctrine blossoms with the Lyon’s the thirteenth encyclic Rerum novarum (1891). New matters are the capital (the new private property form), the work (reduced to a trade, under the offering and demand law), the conflict between both. But it is a reaction of a philosophic and ethic model, more than a coming back to the Gospel. The critic to the capitalist system is certainly intensified little by little, the value of the private property is, theoretically, placed in relative terms, the workers rights priority is emphasized, the confrontation before the socialism is (under difficulties and resistances) attenuated. Nevertheless, the Church’s social doctrine is unreal before the capitalist world. The Gospel’s social message positions itself in favour of the poor, but the large christian Churches are unable to assume it vitally. Because of this: “they are structurally rich and powerful and they are compromised with the interests of the rich, which, in effect, are  (in a more or less adequate way, but certainly meaningful) their own interests” (Diez Alegria).

* Dialogue: Over all that looks to us most important