Fr Bob writes : “We are to love people and use money, not love money and use people”
Our second reading this weekend deals with a collection of money that Paul and his associates took up among Gentile churches during his third missionary journey. The proceeds were gathered to help the poor Christians in Jerusalem. The donation was a practical gesture of charity toward fellow believers in need, as well as a symbolic token of unity expressed by Gentile churches on behalf of their Jewish Christian brethren.
The importance of this collection for Paul is shown in the various methods he uses in his second letter to the Corinthians to get them to show generosity (chapters 8 and 9). Firstly , he praises another Church community (the Macedonians) for contributing abundantly to the Jerusalem collection despite their destitute circumstances(verses 1 – 7). He thus challenges the Corinthians, who are comparatively wealthy, to follow the lead of their northern neighbors by giving alms in proportion to their prosperity. Here, Paul tries to stimulate a healthy rivalry, hoping that the generous example of the Macedonians will draw forth an even greater gift from the Corinthians.
Secondly, and this is the focus of our second reading this weekend, he points to the example of Christ, who “though he was rich”, i.e. in his divine attributes as God, nonetheless “for your sakes he became poor,” by giving up those attributes to take on human nature and experience all the deprivations we humans suffer, including death. By his death, in atonement for our sins, we receive eternal life, and so “through his poverty” says St Paul, “you became rich.” Why not then, hints Paul, “impoverish yourself ” a little to make others, i.e. the Jerusalem Christians, rich?
Paul then speaks about the value of unity among Christians. If the Corinthians give to alleviate the poverty of the Jerusalem Christians now, then later, when and if they find themselves in a similar situation of destitution, the Jerusalem Christians will help them out of their abundance.
In our day, we are used to various stratagems employed by professional fundraisers to extract money from us. It is interesting to note that St Paul could have taught all of them a thing or two about the subtle art of fundraising!!