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WEALTH IS MEASURED NOT IN CURRENCY, BUT IN SPIRITUAL TERMS

Monsignor John C. Weimer graduated from Canisius High School and Holy Cross College before entering Christ the King Seminary when it was located at St. Bonaventure University. He was ordained a priest in 1958 and subsequently earned masters' degrees in English, theology and counseling.

Weimer taught at Bishop Turner High School for seven years. From 1967 until the present, he has been campus minister at the Newman Center at Buffalo State College. He also taught a course in Homiletics at Christ the King Seminary for 12 years and was director of Continuing Formation for Priests for 12 years.

John Kenneth Galbraith once said, "Wealth is not without its advantages, and the case to the contrary, although it has often been made, has never proved widely persuasive."

But who, in this land of the great American dream machine where the popularity of the lottery and the show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" reveal a widespread belief that happiness and fulfillment can be achieved with a sufficiently large pot of gold, could ever deny that money is the sine qua non of all that is important in life? I have been teaching college freshmen for years. When I ask them it I could guarantee them $100,000 a year for the rest of their lives, would they stay in school? Most have no idea why one should get an education except to make more money.

Who, then, is it that makes the case to the contrary? Well, to start with, Jesus.

"Happy are the poor. Woe to you who are rich.

"Happy are you who are hungry. Woe to you who have their fill now."

And, "It is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Ben Franklin suggested that those who believe money can do anything, are perhaps prepared to do anything for money. I suspect that most of us know that in our own heart of hearts, we are vulnerable to greed.

The great danger of wealth and an abundance of material goods is that they can nurture the illusion that we can be self-sufficient. We can do it alone. We can take care of ourselves, which alienates us from community, and makes even God superfluous.

But there is a deeper reality in this issue of wealth that is becoming more manifest in this age of free market capitalism. The problem is this: For some, the free market is god. And just as disasters of nature are considered "acts of God" over which we have no control, so, too, the injustice that results from the unrestrained market is also just an inevitable fact of life.

But this cannot be so for those who have been taught by the prophets and by Jesus and who call Abraham their father in faith. David Toolan, a Jesuit who was stationed in Buffalo a few years ago, makes the point that when Abraham responded to the call of God, when he got up and left a specific place at a specific time, he made every place and every time relative. And when Jesus responded to the person in need on the sabbath, and when he symbolically destroyed the temple, he rendered all times and places relative. God alone is absolute, and justice is God's will for humankind. Everything else is relative. No time or place or reality short of the kingdom of God is absolute.

And what is even more certain, in light of such things as the exploitation of the poor of the world, the destabilization of the American work force, the rape of the environment and the obscene gap that is growing between the rich and the rest of society, is that globalization does not constitute the kingdom of God.

There is only one absolute, and that is God. All the rest, including the world's stock markets and mega-corporations, are relative, temporary and subject to scrutiny and critique until we arrive at a more just distribution of the world's goods. And when that day comes, we will critique those structures because they are still relative. They are not God.

They are the feeble structures of human beings, and, as Jeremiah reminds us, "Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings ... blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord."

If you wish to suggest a sermon from a local clergyman or woman of any faith be included on this page, contact Susan LoTempio at The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240; call 849-4466, or e-mail slotempio@buffnews.com

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