October 24, 2016
Those who are in a position to do so are wise to consult an investment advisor, and at the start of Lent, it is not irreverent to say that the Lord himself is the best one. His parables are woven with references to merchants, investing and interest rates, and in all things he knew whereof he spoke. But he spoke from heaven, even while on earth, which is why he said, “Store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroy, nor thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20). When the crowds remarked that no one spoke the way he did, they were acknowledging, however obliquely, that he had what greedy people superficially think of as insider information, but which in fact was and is an understanding of right value issuing from the economy of the Holy Trinity.
This is why Christ warns so fervently against bad investment of our lives and loves. A divided heart is a very bad investment indeed: “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). The chief problem with the deadly sin of greed—or avarice—is that it is never satisfied because it tries to fabricate a substitute kind of heaven, with the illusion of commanding power and immortality, but these things quickly fall apart along with the body itself. Avarice rejects goodness in favor of false security. Unlike other sins, it tends to get ever worse with age, since it does not merely want more, it wants more than others, and there will always be those others with more. Instead of freeing the soul, mere things (mammon)—as a substitute for God—burden the soul. The rich young man who asked Jesus about eternal life went away sad precisely because “he had many possessions” (Matthew 19:22).
Lent is a particularly elegant time to walk with the saints of various generations and backgrounds, whose prayers for us build up the “treasury of saints” full of powerful grace. Drawing on the graces of the saints for our needs is the one kind of theft that is holy. St. John Vianney said that the treasury of the saints is meant to be plundered. The Good Thief on the cross inherited paradise because he gave up minor theft with the desire for the greatest wealth of all: “the Kingdom and its righteousness.”
Confidence in this great economy of the Holy Trinity that enriches the intellect and will is the essence of Faith. Without it, people will always be anxious about the future because they have invested their intellect and will in unsteady things that pass away. The avaricious man will always lament the bad investments of his past and will constantly worry about present things, because he lacks the faith to trust in the treasure of heaven. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Sorrow looks back. Worry looks around. Faith looks up.”