I think not!
Some time ago, on the final Monday of Lent, Mass at Thomas More College was celebrated by one of the monks from St Benedict’s Abbey in Still River. As usual, we got a stimulating and challenging homily. It challenged us to give to the poor, but not in the way that we often hear.
The gospel passage on this occasion was about Martha and Mary: Martha tended to the guests and Mary washed Jesus feet with expensive nard, a fragrant ointment. Unusually, (in my experience at any rate), the homily spoke not so much to the contrast between Martha and Mary, but between Mary and Judas. It was the latter who suggested that the money spent on nard would have been better given to the poor. Here was a lesson about allocation of resources. Mary made the right choice, we were told, in choosing Christ even before giving to the poor. Then an even more interesting point was made. There is an equivalent choice facing us today every time we have to decide about having beautiful churches and art, intricate vestments, ornate jewel-studded chalices and so on. Is it right to direct money to these things when there is poverty? The answer is yes when these things, through the liturgy, elevate the souls of the faithful to Christ and this is greater than giving to the poor.
However, in order to understand how this can be so, some additional points must be made. First is that there is a point beyond which spending money on ornamentation of churches would constitute extravagance. But provided that point has not been reached then spending money on that nobler end is not asking the poor to make a sacrifice either. This may surprise some people but it is true. First of all, all of us, rich or poor, can go to church and need our souls saving, so the poor benefit spiritually from the beauty of the church and the liturgy as much as the rich do. Second, is that when we see the greater picture, the poor will benefit materially as well. It will inspire the rich to give to the poor directly. Further to that it will allow for the generation of greater wealth for the benefit of the poor. This is the principle of superabundance at work.
It occurred to me as I pondered on this afterwards that it (Read More)