By Hannah Brockhaus
People and relationships are more valuable than things and the truly wealthy are those who are rich in friends, Pope Francis said during the Angelus Sunday.
“Wealth can encourage the erection of walls, create divisions and discrimination,” the pope said Sept. 22, adding that “Jesus, by contrast, invites his disciples to change course: ‘Make friends with riches.’”
“It is an invitation to know how to transform goods and riches into relationships, because people are worth more than things and count more than the wealth they possess,” he explained.
“In life, in fact,” he continued, “it is not those who have so many riches who bear fruit, but those who create and keep so many bonds, so many relationships, so many friendships through the different ‘riches,’ that is, the different gifts with which God has endowed them.”
In his message before the Angelus, Pope Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel passage from St. Luke, in which Jesus tells his disciples a parable about a rich man and his dishonest, but clever, steward.
The steward had been accused of squandering the assets of his master and was about to be fired. “In this difficult situation, he does not blame someone else, he does not seek justification or let himself be discouraged, but he devises a way out to ensure a peaceful future,” the pope said.
First, he has clarity in his own limits, recognizing that he cannot earn a living by being a manual laborer or begging, the pope said. “Then he acts with cunning, robbing his master for the last time” by calling the debtors and reducing their debts, which makes them want to, in turn, return the favor.
Pope Francis said this is friendship gained through corruption and an attitude sometimes seen today.
He explained that Jesus presents this example not to encourage dishonesty, but craftiness. As it says in the passage: “And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently.”
The steward overcame a difficult situation with a mixture of intelligence and cunning, he said, and added that the key to understanding the parable comes at the end, when Jesus says: “I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
“Seems a bit confusing, but it is not,” the pope assured, explaining that “The ‘dishonest wealth’ is money – also called ‘devil’s dung’ – and in general material goods.”
He said the “ultimate purpose of this exhortation” to make friends with “dishonest wealth” is to “welcome us into Paradise, if we are able to transform riches into instruments of fraternity and solidarity.”
Then, “there will be not only God, but also those with whom we have shared, administering well, what the Lord has put in our hands.”
Francis said this Gospel passage encourages Catholics to ask the same question the dishonest steward asked: “what will I do now?”
“Faced with our shortcomings and our failures, Jesus assures us that we are always in time to heal the evil done with good. he who has caused tears, make someone happy; he who has embezzled, [give] gifts to those in need.”
This is to act, he continued, with the wisdom of someone who knows his or her identity as a child of God.
Concluding, Francis prayed for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary to help people be “crafty” not in seeking worldly success, but in seeking eternal life, “so that at the time of the final judgment the needy persons we have helped may testify that we have seen and served the Lord in them.”