1610 Cecco del Caravaggio Christ expulses money changers anagoria
Mark 11:17 Then he taught them saying, “Is it not written: ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples’? But you have made it a den of thieves.”
Mt. 6:24 [Jesus said] “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Per the NAB biblical notes: Mammon being an Aramaic word meaning wealth or property.
Many people don’t know that St. Peter was made the leader of the church (see Mt. 16:18) and was the first Pope of the Catholic Church. The other eleven apostles were made the first bishops of the Church. This is known as the sacrament of Holy Orders and is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time.
1Ptr 1:17-19 17Now if you invoke as Father him who judges impartially according to each one’s works, conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning, 18realizing that you were ransomed from your futile conduct, handed on by your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold 19but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb.
Mt. 16:18 And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
The proverbial “gates” surrounding a street named “Wall” appear to be attempting to “close in upon the church of Jesus”.
We are in the 14th month since Pope Francis papacy began on March 3, 2013. He “hit the ground running” as soon as Fumata bianca in the Sistine Chapel. His first orders of business appeared to show the world that he was a reformer rather than the chief enforcer of ancient church doctrine. Within one month he formed a group of eight cardinals from around the world to “advise him on the government of the universal church” and “to study a project of revision” of a document from John Paul II on the Roman Curia.
The Pope’s 1st orders of business were controversial to say the least:
In late November 2013 the Washington Post published an article “Pope Francis denounces ‘trickle-down’ economic theories in a critique of inequality, The Pontiff disparaged the “idolatry of money” and warned that it would lead to “a new tyranny.” The comments were from “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel), a 50,000-word statement that calls for church reform and castigates elements of modern capitalism. I say the new tyranny has been evident since the Koch Brothers created The Heritage Foundation and Americans For Prosperity for the purpose of promoting Tea Party candidates and a far right conservative agenda.
What surprised several readers, including me, was when the Pope specifically targeted ‘trickle down’ economics and said; “Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” Francis wrote in the papal statement. “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”
Immediately after the release of “Evangelii Gaudium“, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh “anointed” the Pope as a Marxist. As usual, Rush Limbaugh said many things, most notably :
Pope Francis response was emblematic of a devout Christian, particularly a Jesuit priest saying “Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended … there is nothing in the exhortation that cannot be found in the social doctrine of the church.” … In Latin, “responsum a castitate”.
In an act symbolizing the Wall Street Journal’s total disrespect for this outspoken leader of the Catholic Church, they published a Paul H. Rubin article on Christmas Day 2013, which accused the Pope of demonizing the free markets. Mr. Rubin is professor of economics at Emory University and past president of the Southern Economic Association. His article was adapted from his presidential address on Nov. 13, 2013. Rubin took the opening shot, referring to “Evangelii Gaudium” as a “manifesto” rather than as an encyclical reaffirming “The Joy of the Gospel”.
What Rubin did was merely write an anti-Christian diatribe. Keep in mind, there are plenty of wealthy Christians who read the Wall Street Journal and have investments. Many of those are Catholic and acknowledge the Papal Father as the head of the Church, but their foremost investment is in the Word of God. Cases in point are the Ave Maria Rising Dividend Funds, which are designed specifically for serious long-term investors who want to practice morally responsible investing (MRI). MRI entails looking for what are believed to be financially sound investments in companies that do not violate core teachings of the Catholic Church. The core teachings of Judeo-Christians involve “loving your neighbor as yourself”. God so wanted to emphasize that point, in “the Spirit of ‘cooperation’”, that He said it 9 times, 2 of which go all the way back to Mosaic Law: Leviticus 19:18, 34, Matthew 19:19, 22:39, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27, Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14, James 2:8. In Rubin’s own words; “This discussion may seem semantic, but Words have Meaning and Power.” The aforementioned Scripture’s fundamental Meaning and Power is “Love Your Neighbor”. In the article, Rubin’s statistics are limited to “a sample of nine introductory economics textbooks [contain the word] ‘competition’ … an average of eight times as often as ‘cooperation.’ It’s no wonder that competition comes to mind when society thinks of the economy.”
These are statistics from the New American Bible, which is the official Bible of the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops). I’m sure Pope Francis has a copy. In a soft-copy sample from 73 Biblical Books and 1722 pages, including the biblical notes and readings, the word “idolatry” is used 52 times, “idolatrous” 19 times, “greed” 90 times, “hypocrite” 33 times, and “hypocrisy” 14 times. These are not new Words and are not used in a positive sense but are Words which have much Meaning and Power.
Pope Francis’ remarks repeat the Spirit and the teachings from the Gospels and Epistles. Some examples are:
Mt.19:16-30 Rich Young Man
Mk.11:15-19 Cleansing of the Temple
Lk.19:1-10 Zacchaeus the Tax Collector
Lk.21:1-4 The Poor Widow’s Contribution
Rom.1: 18-22 Punishment of Idolaters
1Tim6:17-19 Right Use of Wealth
Jas5:1-6 Warning to the Rich
And then comes the test of the “2 masters”.
Unfortunately, the Catholic Church in the United States will always struggle with change because, regardless of confliction, it will sometimes feel that it must satisfy 2 masters. Its financial survival comes from charity; therefore, it will always be subject to “mammon”. The question here is did the New York Archdiocese stand up to Wall Street charity when the “jewel” of the ecclesiastical province of New York needed a “facelift” or did they challenge the Pope, and the majority of Catholics (who strongly believe in the Gospels and Epistles) rather than challenging the benefactors?
An article by CNBC written in late December 2013, detailed a potential 7-figure unnamed investor who took exception to many of the above noted statements of Pope Francis and this unnamed investor used his financial leverage to question Pope Francis comments through Ken Langone a billionaire spearheading the $180,000,000 restoration of St. Francis Cathedral and the investor known for founding Home Depot. Langone passed the unnamed investors remarks to Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of New York.
Langone said to Dolan; ‘Your Eminence, this is one more hurdle I hope we don’t have to deal with. You want to be careful about generalities. Rich people in one country don’t act the same as rich people in another country,’ (Remember this remark, when reading the below discussion of yesterday’s New York Times article)
Dolan, being a seasoned “diplomat” in Vatican politics, told CNBC that he had heard from Langone and said, ” ‘Well, Ken, that would be a misunderstanding of the Holy Father’s message. The pope loves poor people. He also loves rich people.’ … So I said, ‘Ken, thanks for bringing it to my attention. We’ve gotta correct to make sure this gentleman understands the Holy Father’s message properly.’ And then I think he’s gonna say, ‘Oh, OK. If that’s the case, count me in for St. Patrick’s Cathedral.’ “
Langone, who describes himself as a devout Catholic who prays every morning, said he has told the cardinal that “you get more with honey than with vinegar.” He said he also wants to make clear that wealthy Americans are some of the biggest donors in the world.
“There is no nation on earth that is so forthcoming, so giving,” he said, adding that he hopes the pope can “celebrate a positive point of view rather than focusing on the negative.”
Yesterday’s New York Times published an article, The American Middle Class Is No Longer the World’s Richest by David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy. It confirmed what economists have been saying and what Pope Francis referred to in his denunciation of ‘trickle-down’ economic theories. When globally comparing the incomes of the wealthy vs. lower- and middle-income tiers, the numbers suggest that most American families are paying a steep price for high and rising income inequality.  Notable points from the report:
Where’s the honey in this Times article Mr. Langone? It looks like the wealthy in the U.S. are feeding the middle and lower classes a steady diet of barley and “wine mixed with gall”. This article both confirms Pope Francis’ concerns of income inequality, particularly in the U.S., and that the Obama Administration is attempting to reconcile several of these issues.
Christ did talk about cleansing the temple, but He wasn’t referring to a pressure washer and some “elbow grease”. Quite the opposite, as He exclaimed in
Mk.11:17 Then he taught them saying, “Is it not written*: ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples’? But you have made it a den of thieves.”
*It was written in Is.56:7.
God cares not if the interior and exterior walls in His House are a bit dingy, rather He cares about what goes on at the altar and ends up in the pews.
In the case of the restoration of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, I hope Pope Francis did not end up being subject to the very evil he disdains and as a result of that, “the thieves got away with the house”.
In Luke 12:13-15, Saying against Greed, He [Jesus] said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”
But Jesus recognized and Pope Francis recognizes both the evil of greed and the good deeds from some of the rich:
In Lk.19:1-10, Zacchaeus the Tax Collector, it reads; 1He [Jesus] came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town. 2Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, 3was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. 5When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” 6And he came down quickly and received him with joy. 7When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” 8But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”
History repeats itself. The Giving Pledge founded by Bill Gates and wife Melinda, together with Warren Buffett, came up with the idea to get America’s wealthiest families to give away at least 50% of their wealth during their lifetimes, or upon their deaths, and write a letter explaining why. The campaign specifically focuses on billionaires (or those who would be billionaires if not for their philanthropy). As of February 2014, 122 billionaire or former billionaire individuals and couples have signed the pledge, which is a moral commitment to give, not a legal contract.
In the history of biblical good deeds, the one that I think of most often were the actions of a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph. He was a member of Sanhedrin (the same Jewish Council that condemned Jesus to death), but secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews. After the death of Jesus, Joseph asked Pontius Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus from the Cross and Pilate permitted it. Joseph and a Pharisee (Jewish leader) named Nicodemus took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom. In the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden was Joseph’s new tomb, so they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by.
Both Joseph and Nicodemus risked not only their wealth and prestige, but also their lives to give the Messiah a proper burial.
St. Paul knew well the struggles of the poor and wrote to his companion Timothy about the Right Use of Wealth:
1Tim6:17-19 *17Tell the rich in the present age not to be proud and not to rely on so uncertain a thing as wealth but rather on God, who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. 18Tell them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, ready to share, 19thus accumulating as treasure a good foundation for the future, so as to win the life that is true life.
* [6:17–19] Timothy is directed to instruct the rich, advising them to make good use of their wealth by aiding the poor.
My 7:00 p.m. Sunday evening ritual is watching the CBS News Show, 60 Minutes. It’s an old addiction going back to the Mike Wallace, Ed Bradley, and Andy Rooney days. Last Sunday night was a repeat of a previous episode about the Robin Hood Foundation which was founded by Paul Tudor Jones II, also founder of Tudor Investment Corporation, a private asset management company and hedge fund. The Robin Hood Foundation is New York’s largest poverty-fighting organization, and since 1988 has focused on finding, funding, and creating programs and schools that generate meaningful results for families in New York’s poorest neighborhoods. Since its founding, Robin Hood has distributed more than $1.45 billion in grants and initiatives to hundreds of New York City-based soup kitchens, homeless shelters, schools, job training programs, and other vital services that give New York’s neediest citizens the tools they need to build better lives for themselves and their families. In addition, Robin Hood’s board of directors pays all administrative, fundraising and evaluation costs, so 100% of your donation goes directly to organizations helping New Yorkers in need. Seth Meyers, former SNL member and now talk show host, was the emcee at a previous fundraising venue and remarked to those in attendance; “its like the 1% has its own 1%”. He was probably correct. In the Spirit of Zacchaeus and St. Timothy, The Giving Pledge and The Robin Hood Foundation realize the plight of the poor and they do good deeds to help them. (Ref. Revelation 22:12. Good deeds also include faith and repentance.)
Reuters reported in late January 2014 that Pope Francis is currently writing an encyclical on the environment. Earlier that month in his so-called “state of the world” address to diplomats accredited to the Vatican, he said, “God always forgives, we sometimes forgive, but when nature – creation – is mistreated, she never forgives.” His statement echoes what the Prophet Isaiah wrote approximately 2,800 years ago regarding the environment:
Is. 24:3-6 “3The earth shall be utterly laid waste, utterly stripped, for the LORD has decreed this word. 4The earth mourns and fades, the world languishes and fades; both heaven and earth languish. 5The earth is polluted because of its inhabitants, for they have transgressed laws, violated statutes,broken the ancient covenant.* 6Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants pay for their guilt; Therefore they who dwell on earth have dwindled, and only a few are left.
* [24:5] Ancient covenant: God’s commandments to all humankind (cf. Gn 9:4–6). The Noahic Covenant.
This is the same Prophet Isaiah that in the 8th century B.C. accurately predicted the coming, persecution and death of Christ in Isaiah Chapter 53.
I pray that Pope Francis, like me, sees the relationship between our declining environment and St. John’s visions in the Book of Revelation.  On this issue of climate change, the Pope must again loudly speak the truth so as to drown-out the shrill voices of hatred from the “far right”, who will again attack him.
Is.17:13 But God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far away, Driven like chaff on the mountains before a wind, like tumbleweed before a storm.
Pope Francis is a Jesuit and he’s inherently doing his job: Remember St. Peter, upon this rock I will build my church.
 Rev. 6:6 Barley: food of the poor (Jn 6:9, 13; cf. 2 Kgs 7:1, 16, 18); it was also used to feed animals; cf. 1 Kgs 5:8.
 Mt.27:34 Wine…mixed with gall: cf. Mk 15:23 where the drink is “wine drugged with myrrh,” a narcotic. Matthew’s text is probably an inexact allusion to Ps 69:22. That psalm belongs to the class called the individual lament, in which a persecuted just man prays for deliverance in the midst of great suffering and also expresses confidence that his prayer will be heard. That theme of the suffering Just One is frequently applied to the sufferings of Jesus in the passion narratives.
Author G.R. Miller, utilizing his engineering and project management experiences in the fossil fuels energy sectors and guidance from God, takes a pragmatic approach of part preterism, part symbolism and part literalism in decoding the Revelation of Jesus Christ. He exhibits a Climate Change connection through scripture, commentary and illustrations.