You refuse to give on the pretext that you haven’t got enough for your own needs. But while your tongue makes excuses, your hand convicts you — that ring shining on your finger silently declares you to be a liar! How many debtors could be released from prison with one of those rings?
Saint Basil the Great
Recently a rich donor complained to New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, seeking 180 million dollars for the restoration of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, that perhaps the pope didn’t understand the rich. As the Cardinal explained:
One person said that you come to us who are blessed who are wealthy and we sense that perhaps the pope is less than enthusiastic about us and we need to correct that.
Cardinal Dolan’s response was that “the pope loves poor people and loves rich people; he loves people…”
But what the pope really said in Evangelii Gaudium, ¶ 58, was more critical than what the cardinal intimated:
The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favors human beings.
I wonder what that donor would have said if the cardinal or the pope had quoted Saint Basil, whose feast is celebrated today:
Who is a robber? One who takes the goods of another.
Are you not avaricious? Are you not a robber? You who make your own the things which you have received to distribute….
The bread which you keep, belongs to the hungry; that coat which you preserve in your wardrobe belongs to the naked; those shoes which are rotting in your possession belong to the shoeless; the gold which you have hidden in the ground belongs to the needy. Wherefore, as often as you were able to help others and refused, so often did you do them wrong.
I think those donors would be surprised at these words from a fourth century saint and doctor of the church who was a champion of orthodoxy against the Arians.
There are other rich persons, though, who find these words a challenge and respond with incredible generosity.
But those who questioned Cardinal Dolan might even be tempted to quote Rush Limbaugh.
A few weeks ago he complained that what Pope Francis was saying in Evangelii Gaudium about exclusion and inequality was “just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the Pope.”
What would Limbaugh say of these words of Saint Basil?
If each one would take that which is sufficient for one’s need, leaving what is in excess to those in distress, no one would be rich, no one would be poor.
Whoever loves the neighbor as oneself will possess no more than one’s neighbor.
Of course, Basil was not a Marxist. He lived 1500 years before Karl Marx. His inspiration, like the pope’s, is the Gospel. which says, in strikingly severe words:
Blessed are you who are poor…
Woe to you who are rich.
Luke 6: 20, 24