FR MICHAEL BOAKYE YEBOAH
CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF KUMASI, GHANA.
Between love and wealth, what is the most sought-after thing? Opinions are divided because while some go for love others strongly believe that wealth is “the boss”. I have heard some people opine that when you live with the dream of your heart though you may dwell in a mud house, the presence of your heartbeat-lover will make it a mansion. Some youth think that this is total foolishness because once one has wealth, the wealth will attract the best of life-partners so that one can make his/her choice. And so, the Akan people of Ghana will say “sika kasa” (money talks) and without it when there is a family meeting, at times the poor is not given a voice. Those who philosophize in this light may have a point because in our world’s “family meeting”, no poor nation is given a permanent seat when the G8 nations meet to discuss affairs of our common home.
Looking closely at the three readings given to us for our reflection, I have decided on the theme “wealth.” What is wealth? It can simply be defined as “an abundance of valuable possessions or money” or in another light it can be defined as “a plentiful supply of a particular desirable thing” and so a person may be described as having a wealth of ideas/information.
We can look at wealth from four dimensions: natural wealth, financial wealth, academic wealth, and spiritual wealth. Let us take them one after the other before I follow the three dimensions into the fourth and then link the summary of the four to our readings for the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Firstly, natural resources are natural assets (raw materials) occurring in nature that can be used for economic production or consumption. It is believed that no continent can equal Africa when it comes to natural wealth. Africa has significant natural resource wealth. The region is home to the world’s largest arable landmass; second largest and longest rivers (the Nile and the Congo); and it has the second largest tropical forest. The total value added of its fisheries and aquaculture sector alone is estimated at USD 24 billion. In addition, about 30% of all global mineral reserves are found in Africa. The continent’s proven oil reserves constitute 8% of the world’s stock and those of natural gas amount to 7%. With all these facts one can deduce that God never destined the African person to go to bed with an empty stomach but this is not the topic under discussion today; we may look at it another time. But this is what I mean by natural wealth.
The second dimension is “financial wealth.” I coined this dimension to put it down to money (physical cash or assets like buildings, cars, equipment, etc.). This is where the western nations are far advanced. While a nation with natural wealth may nuance an “ascribed status”, a nation with financial wealth may nuance an “achieved status.” Ascribed natural wealth comes to a nation naturally while achieved wealth comes to a nation through dedication, commitment, good financial management, and the skilled people with the know-how to acquire wealth.
The third dimension has to do with “academic wealth.” This I pencil down to “know-how.” Some countries really have abundance of technocrats while others are very poor. In Africa, I think there seems to be a missing link between our natural wealth and our academic wealth. Though we are blessed with natural resources, it seems we lack the means to process them from raw material to finished products. I believe that until we are able to process our natural resources we will continue to be financial poor. This is one of the reasons why I fully support the free High School education by the Government of Ghana. We need to be academically endowed if we are to move to the next level of national development.
Anyway, let us leave these to the politicians and economists and focus more on the spiritual dimension that seeks the care of souls (cura animarum). One can be deemed as spiritual wealthy when (s)he lives his/her life totally in Christ and does nothing contrary to the gospel of Christ. If one wishes to build-on his/her spiritual wealth, (s)he needs to start from his/her initiation. One is deemed to be a spiritually wealthy person if (s)he has been fully initiated in the Lord through the reception of the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation. And for one to advance on this spiritual path, (s)he can embrace one of the sacraments of vocation, that is either the sacrament of holy matrimony or the sacrament of the priesthood. And as (s)he lives in his/her spiritual wealth, (s)he should place premium on the sacraments of healing (sacrament of the anointing of the sick and sacrament of reconciliation). If a person tailors his/her life along this path, (s)he can be deemed to be spiritually wealthy.
There are other elements that may qualify a person to be deemed spiritually wealthy and some of them are discussed in today’s first reading. Zephaniah was a descendant of King Hezekiah and was believed to have been a person of considerably good social standing in Judah. He prophesized on the coming judgement of Yahweh on Judah. He prophesized to the faithful Judeans that if they keep faith with the Lord their wealth will not be measured by the amount of wheat in their barns or corn in their store room neither by their ownership of jars of oil but rather, their wealth will be measured by their lives of blessedness in the Lord. In his own words the prophet informed the remnant of Judah what they stood to gain if they inclined their hearts to the Lord. This is what the inspired writer put down: “But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humbly and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord: the remnant of Israel. They shall do no wrong and speak no lies; nor shall there be found in their mouths a deceitful tongue; they shall pasture and couch their flocks with none to disturb them.” As the reception of the sacraments forms the core of one’s spiritual wealth, the prophet’s list to us some good spiritual manners. He lists these: one should put his/her life in the Lord’s hands; (s)he should not do any wrong thing nor shall words of deceit be found in his/her mouth, etc. To the Prophet Zephaniah this should be the treasure of a spiritually wealthy person.
For one to be blessed with such a life in the Lord, the inspired writers in today’s three readings proposed humility and lowliness of life as the best way of life for a Christian. One cannot enjoy a life of wealth in the Lord if (s)he is full of pride and sin. What the world uses to measure wealth is totally different from what St Paul proposed for us in the second reading. The learned Apostle has this to say: “Consider your own calling, brothers and sisters. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something…” One’s wealth is therefore dependent on what God can do in his/her life than what (s)he can do for him or herself.
Any advancement in life or wealth that has a human being as its main source, comes with an expiration date but if one’s wealth or advancement in life is sourced from the Lord, it will never come to an end.
The beatitudes also give a summary of a life lived in the Lord. That life may have some initial moments of struggles and pain but its end will be very glorious. Do not look at your pain today but rather pay much attention to the joys that God may bless your life with. In Christ, there is always hope because he controls all destinies. Do not lose hope. OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP PRAY FOR US.
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