Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"Monaghan's Money": A Thanksgiving Reflection

"Monaghan's money." Frequenters of this page have undoubtedly heard this phrase thrown around with more than a hint of accusation against those whose names appear in the same sentence. But what about Mr. Monaghan's wealth? What should our attitude be? The man sold Domino's Pizza for $1,000,000,000. So what difference does it really make if he has given any of us $70,000 to attend law school? That may be a lot of money to ordinary people, but it's a pretty small percentage of $1,000,000,000.

In truth, it makes a big difference. We owe a debt of gratitude, but I think it is often difficult for people to be grateful for a rich man's money. The parable of the widow's mite comes to mind and perhaps tempts us to think that the rich, because they can give more while sacrificing less, are unworthy objects of our gratitude. But the parable of the widow's mite does not concern gratitude. Rather, Our Lord addresses this parable to us as a challenge to do all that we can and to give of our substance. Gratitude is addressed by another Gospel account--that of the ten lepers. It cost Our Lord nothing to heal the lepers, so why was He so dismayed that nine of them did not return? Were the nine lepers not right to think that it made no difference to Our Lord to heal them and that therefore they owed Him no gratitude? In reality, Our Lord did not have to heal the lepers, even if doing so meant no sacrifice to Him, and so the lepers owed gratitude.

All gratitude is ultimately owed to God Himself. But gratitude is also owed to his human instruments and intermediaries. Let us never forget that no matter how small a percentage of his fortune Mr. Monaghan's benificence to any one of us may have constituted, he did not have to give us anything at all; he could have given us nothing. And let us remember that in the Mystical Body of Christ, different people have different roles according to their respective states in life. The rich man indeed has a role in the Mystical Body of Christ, even an important role. I pray that this Thanksgiving, we will all offer gratitude to the Almighty for a rich man who has concerned himself so deeply with fulfilling his God-given responsibility to do good things with his wealth.