The return to Gospel life must involve (a) detachment from worldly goods and (b) charity.
Detachment from worldly goods does not mean detestation of the world. It means rightly ordering all things. And above all, the goods of heaven rank supreme. The goods of this world are so much rubbish compared to what eye has not seen, nor ear heard. By detachment from worldly goods, the rich can get a true sense of the purpose of their wealth. The ultimate purpose of their wealth is to do good to their neighbor by providing for them. And of course this provision can be undertaken in many and various ways. However, the destination of wealth is for the common good, not for the private benefit of the individual. In turn, the poor gain inestimably by patiently enduring their difficulties as they seek diligently to better the situation. Patience, then, should rule both poor and rich; that long-suffering patience that allows true progress to be made most efficiently, not under the yoke of a whip or knife or rifle, but under the sweet Cross of Christ.
More important than detachment is charity, claims the good pope. Charity enables that patience to be endured with human dignity and even divine dignity. This charity ought also to pull the rich into a more serious examination of conscience. Are they spending their wealth on “useless things and frivolous amusements” (art. 47)? Or are they truly dedicating it to its divinely appointed destination?
The terrifying judgment of Christ – Mt 25 – looms as a crucial final word by which the rich must guide their lives and steward their wealth. The words are indeed nothing short of terrifying. And yet, they are for those who have charity, words of challenge, not merely rebuke; words that invite towards the higher vision of life which alone can allow the many poor, and even the troubled rich, to escape the tempting siren of Marxist Communism.