Pope Francis

By Christopher Wells

Jan 25 2024

At the weekly General Audience, Pope Francis continues his catechesis series on vice and virtue with a reflection on avarice, saying the certainty of death is an effective reminder that we must be generous with our goods in this life since we cannot take our money beyond the grave.

Avarice is a kind of “attachment to money that prevents man from generosity,” Pope Francis said at his Wednesday General Audience.

Continuing his series of catecheses on the vices and virtues, the Pope explained that avarice is not about how much wealth a person has but is a sin that affects us in a variety of ways.

“It is a sickness of the heart,” he said, “not of the wallet.”

Meditation on death

Even the Desert Fathers, monks who renounced enormous wealth, could find themselves clinging to objects of little value.

“Those objects became for them a sort of fetish from which they could not detach themselves,” said the Pope. This reveals “a disordered relationship with reality, which can result in forms of compulsive hoarding and pathological accumulation.”

To fight this, Pope Francis said, “the monks proposed a drastic but highly effective method: meditation on death.”

He reminded the faithful that, however much money we might make in this life, we retain nothing after death. Death reminds us that “we are not masters of the world” and “we move about it like strangers and pilgrims.”

This reflection, he continued, also shows us the reason for avarice, which is an attempt “to exorcise the fear of death.”

But Christ shows us, in the parable of the foolish man who laid up an abundant harvest, that death can come at any moment.

Do not let possessions control us

Pope Francis warned that, although it’s possible to be “masters of the goods we possess,” often those possessions can end up controlling us. We can become anxious about always accumulating more and keeping what we have, but all our possessions “can disappear in a moment.”

Too often, the Pope said, we “forget the Gospel preaching, which does not claim that riches are a sin in themselves, but they are certainly a liability.”

This, he added, “is what the miser does not understand: he could have been a source of blessing to many, but instead has slipped into a blind alley of wretchedness.”

So, Pope Francis concluded, “Let us be attentive, and let us be generous: generous with everyone and generous with those who need us most.” – Vatican News