“You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.”
It was when I was in the second year of the Jesuit Noviceship that I got to be really quite ambitious. I had the chance to get a job that I really wanted to have. It was the job of House Treasurer - the man in charge of the money. It wasn’t, you understand, that I particularly wanted to be in charge of the money - simply that, three afternoons a week, the Treasurer got to sit warm and comfortable in an office with a three-bar electric heater, while the other novices had to go out into the wind, rain, sleet and (sometimes) snow to work in the grounds - something which – I had discovered - I found not at all congenial.
But no, they gave the job to another man called John - a man who had only joined the Noviceship two weeks before. And they told me to keep up the good work with the vegetable patch.
I was a bit upset about this and I mentioned it to the Novice Master. I remarked that in no other well-run organisation would they take someone who had only just arrived and put him in charge of the money. Please understand that I’m not necessarily saying anything against his honesty. But we don’t even know if he can count!
The novice master just looked at me. And then he said: “Paul: two things you need to understand.
Number one: we never give the money job to anybody who actually wants it, because the people who want it don’t generally want it for the right reasons.
Number two: John is here, like you, to begin a process of training after which, if he is selected, we will trust him with ordination as a priest,
with the reputation of the Church,
with the Body and Blood of Christ.
If he cannot even be trusted with money, then it’s best we find that out now, before we trust him with something important.
Why don’t you go away and pray about that?”
I hope I learned a lot from that day:
A lot about where my priorities truly lie.
A lot about the responsibilities with which I have been entrusted by you and the rest of the Church.
And I hope a lot about what it is to be trusted - as we all are with the only thing in this world that is of ultimate value - that is the Good News of Jesus Christ. That is the only thing that we will take with us.
This is what God has entrusted me with in my life.
But every one of us has been entrusted with the Death and Resurrection of Christ. As St Paul says, each of us carries with us in our own bodies, the death of Christ crucified. And each of us builds our lives on the Good News of His Resurrection. And each of us carries the responsibility of making God known and loved in the World.
And each of us has been entrusted with the most sacred responsibility of all: the love of family and friends.
Let us pray for the people who love us and who trust us.
And let us pray to be worthy of that Trust.
Let us pray that we may be released from any and every thing that enslaves us – to be free – to be the best we can be – to be God’s People in the World.
Paul O'Reilly SJ