The papal visit to the UK, finishing today down in London, was preceded by several controversies: from theological to social ones. One of the most popular was the high cost of the pilgrimage, paid by the state. Some people said that the pope or the Catholic Church in the UK should pay for it. The Sunday Times, a magazine hardly recognized as Catholic supportive, wrote two weeks ago: “We’ve been chucking invites at him [the Pope] like confetti. He must have thought we were desperate” and then published a pretty long list of the British politicians inviting the Pope since 2006. Although the cost of the visit is high, it was just an excuse to raise a voice against it.
Today’s gospel speaks about the value of money. When we ask about the value of some scraps of printed paper in our wallets, there is only one definite answer: their real value is virtually nothing. It’s just the joint cost of paper, printing ink and the use of a printing machine. People who work know the real value hidden behind the papers: long hours spent in an office, at a building site, on a farm, in a factory and so on. I learnt that lesson as a teenager, when I spent two months of my summer holiday delivering telegrams within a town of 30-thousand people, using just a bike. I understood that riding many miles in all sorts of weather, up and down the town was the value of my salary.
There is another element that adds value to our money: the use of it. That’ a common belief that Scots are the meanest nation in the world. But when I came to Scotland I discovered very quickly, that they are not mean – most of those I’ve met are not. I discovered they can be generous in need, but they are not wasteful. Several weeks ago the media informed us that British society delivered more private money to flooded Pakistan than the British government. Jesus in today’s gospel says: “use money[…] to win you friends”.
Moreover, the gospel doesn’t speak about money only. It’s used by Jesus because of the common belief that money is tainted and at the same time the most desired thing. But we can substitute almost everything in place of money; everything that can make us people without internal freedom. It may be a desire to be famous at any cost, or to posses someone, or being over concerned about our appearance… Anything that actually takes away the joy of life and peace of mind from our life. Every talent or skill we have but don’t share or use for others loses its value.
The main message of today’s gospel is that all we are and all we have is given us as a gift to bring more love to the world. Contaminated by selfishness we are invited to renew our readiness to serve and to share every day. Surprisingly the more we give away the more we get in return.