Riches: A Blessing or a Curse?

Fr (Dr) Johannes Gorantla OCD

St Paul’s Publication, 2021; 256 pages; MRP: ₹280; ISBN: 978-93-5015-389-5

Available at Pauline Book Centres in Mumbai and their online store

‘God is the Creator, while Mammon is the created’. Where service rendered to God makes one His child, if that same kind of service is rendered to Mammon or riches and money, it makes one a slave!

This book titled ‘Riches: A Blessing or a Curse?’ in a spirit of a detailed exegetical and theological analysis, proposes that possessions do not secure eternal life, and that a good Catholic can only serve one Master – either God or money. The author of this well-researched and highly engaging book analyses the evangelist St Luke’s Gospel regarding specific events in Jesus’ ministry where he tackled the topic of riches, money and material possessions. The author, Fr (Dr) Johannes Gorantla OCD, has gone out of his way to bring out the essence of Catholic teaching on Mammon, which is something that St Luke focuses on in his Gospel.

Since we are already in Advent in the year 2021, that means liturgically we are in Year C, and the readings are primarily from the Gospel of St Luke. There is no better way to get to know this Gospel than by studying its key elements, parables and analogies in the light of Jesus’ teachings of an inclusive community of believers, where none shall be in want or need. The author analyses the influence of wealth in the context of man’s journey towards God. We come to understand that to be the servant of two masters is often possible, but to be at the absolute disposal of two masters is impossible.

We are living in an age where there is a significant gap between the rich and the poor. How do we make riches a source of blessing? A Catholic’s aim is, of course, eternal habitation with the Almighty. However, when we scan through the Gospel of Luke, we get the impression that Jesus is inimical to those who possess riches. Can a rich man enter the Kingdom of heaven? However, if one takes a deeper look at these passages, one would realise that Jesus wasn’t against the rich; rather, he was against a certain attitude towards wealth and riches. The Gospel of St Luke has a solution for all our questions regarding the wealthy, the fact that possessions do not secure life, that one can attain only a perishable life when we place our hope in perishable material goods, and that with great wealth comes greater responsibility. The conversion of a rich man indicates that he will use his material goods and money in a new way like the early Jerusalem Church mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, also penned by St Luke. The Acts of the Apostles accounts for the teachings in the Gospel of Luke. Both these texts can provide a great learning experience for all Catholics, especially those who can’t bear to see the poverty in the world, and some who feel they are too wealthy to have the Lord Jesus as their Saviour.

Additionally, the author dispels the lie that socialism and Marxism are the only ways to achieve uniformity in society. It brings to focus the positive teaching of St Luke in the case of material possessions; in other words, it is not a sin or a crime to be wealthy. What is sinful is the attitude of a rich person who presumes or accepts these riches as securing his hold on life in the physical world and the world to come.

This book is not about Capitalism or Marxism. It’s about Jesus’ unique understanding of riches through the stories of Zacchaeus, Lazarus and the rich man, the rich ruler, the rich fool, and the unjust steward. This book talks about the spontaneous generosity that we need to see among the rich and, like Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, how they can be included in the love of the Lord Jesus. The book teaches us to rectify our relationship with riches through justice and charity. The book is easy to read and well-resourced with excellent footnotes and a detailed bibliography which one can use to further one’s knowledge on the theme of riches, in the light of St Luke’s gospel.