Friday, April 4, 2008

The Camel through the Needle's Eye, by Fr. Roch Kereszty

Fr. Roch Kereszty, O. CistI have been blessed with many mentors in my life: John Roppolo (2005 Fundraiser of the Year in the local AFP chapter), Larry James (2005-6 United Way Agency Executive of the Year), Willard Spiegelman and even the blogosphere's own Phil Cubeta has shaped me in his own way.

But few have had the deep, lasting impact of my dear friend and lifelong teacher, Fr. Roch Kereszty, O. Cist.

A native of Hungary, Fr. Roch was educated at the Athenaeum Anselmianum in Rome as well as Eotvos Lorant University in Budapest. He serves nobly yet humbly in many posts, including Head of the Theology Department at Cistercian Prep School. He is also, in many ways, the father of my faith as a Catholic, something I resisted bitterly while under his direct tutelage by later embraced.

Like many great teachers, his greatest lessons were learned many years after he left the daily passage of my life.

Below is one of his more insightful articles, which I have pasted in its entirety for your review. I find it to be incredibly challenging for all of us, particularly those in the business of soliciting or providing charitable donations:

“It is easier for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”

"This is one of those sayings of Jesus which has caused much anxiety for many people (Mt 19:24). The first to be disturbed were the apostles themselves. “Who then can be saved?” –they ask Jesus. He restores their peace: “This is impossible for men but for God all things are possible” Mt 19: 26). In other words, wealth can be an insurmountable obstacle if someone is so attached to it as the young man was to whom Jesus told to sell all he had, give the money to the poor and literally follow him. But Jesus did not give the same command to every rich person. He even accepts invitations to rich people’s homes.

"He does not demand from Simon the Pharisee to sell his property. Instead, he tells his audience in a Pharisee’s house that when they invite people, they should invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind, those who cannot repay the host (Lk 14: 12‐14).

"We also learn from the Acts of the Apostles and from Paul’s letters that there were rich people among the first Christians (Acts 20:7‐12). Their homes served as meeting places for the local churches in every city where Paul established a Christian community (Rom 16:23, 1 Cor 16: 15,19, Phlm 1‐2). Paul does not despair about their salvation as long as they are sharing their wealth with the poor generously and serve the needs of the Church.

"A just social order does not mean that everyone would have an equal share of goods, ‐‐ an impossible ideal anyway—it is one in which everyone who works and those who cannot work such as children, the sick and the elderly, would have a fair share in the goods of the world. In our sinful world, however, we must strive for this goal, but we will never fully reach it. Yet we can turn this sorry state of affairs to our own advantage. Are we affluent, this indicates our vocation to use our wealth to help those who are in need and in this way learn to be generous and even humble when we realize that some of the poor would more deserve the good life than we ourselves do.

"Are we poor or indigent, we can learn gratitude toward those who are helping us. The Fathers of the Church and more recently Paul VI explained in his encyclical opulorum Progressio that what is truly superfluous to the rich man and his family does not belong to him but to those in need. This, of course, cannot mean that all superfluous wealth ought to be given away in form of charitable donations. That would ruin the economy of any society. But wealth should be used to provide job opportunities, promote better health services and better education for children who are caught in the vicious circle of poor neighborhood and poor schools, they could endow foundations which provide effective help, etc.

"There are people, however, who are extremely generous with material help but also extremely proud of their status, talents and virtues. They can belong to the poor in spirit to whom the kingdom of heaven belongs only if they discover their real situation: all that they have and all that they are is undeserved gift, a cause for gratitude rather than pride. Blessed are they if they realize this fact before death deprives them of all they cherish."
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