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Theology of money, banking

By Atty. Ignacio R. Bunye

With the permission of the Most Reverend Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, I am reprinting his homily during the mass last August 1commemorating the 167th Anniversary of Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI).

Not only did I find the good archbishop’s homily witty and humorous. He gave a very understandable philosophical rationale for money and banking.

We quote in full Archbishop Soc’s homily:

BPI is 167 and we have reason to give thanks. But 167 would be nothing compared to the eternity of God. As we recognize that we are meant for life everlasting, let us give thanks to God for the blessings of the past 167 years, and we look forward with hope for even more blessings to come.

Banking in the Philippines is as old as BPI. The Sto. Niño is as old as Christianity in the Philippines. And you are the symbol of banking in the Philippines. And that is a blessing.

When you speak of a bank, the first word that comes to mind is money. If there is no money in the bank, it is not a bank. If there is no money in the bank, we should call it by another name. Because the presence of money makes the bank.

But money is an invention of man. God did not create money. Men and women created money.

Although money is important for BPI – and also for the Church – we need to be reminded every now and then, that in heaven there is no money. In heaven, there are no banks. I hope that in heaven, there are bankers. (laughter…)

I think so. Can bankers go to heaven? I believe so. Can bankers go to heaven? Yes! But under certain very strict conditions.

The first thing you must remember about money, my brothers and sisters is you must never use money separated from God. When money is separated from God, then money becomes an instrument of the devil.

Money did not come from God. Money was invented by man.

Like all human inventions, like technology, like arts, like culture…Culture, arts, technology, without money, will be a curse for humanity.

So when you use money in the bank, remember it is not absolute. When the central bank rules differently, it will change its value. When we use money, remember that there is something higher than money. And every now and then, when you look at your numbers, please remember: I am a soul.

Please take note of the verb. I AM a soul. I did not say: I have a soul. I AM a soul because I was originally a soul and my body was added into it. And there will come a time in my life, when my body will decay but my soul is forever.

Everybody is beautiful at BPI. You prepared for this day. But I want to remind you – especially the ladies – the last one to put make-up on you will be the funeraria! (Laughter) You will be at the mercy of the embalsamador, and then we will realize that everything has a purpose and that everything has an end. And in the end, what matters is: Did I use everything according to God’s purpose?

It is not ironic. In fact, it is how it should be. That for 167 years of managing money, the highlight of our day is the worship of God. Because as I said, money can bring you to heaven. But only if you use it for God and with God. Money, separated from God, will become our curse.

I have been asked from outside BPI: Why is the Church linked to BPI all these years? And no flattery. This is the truth. I have only one answer: Because the trademark of BPI is you operate the bank according to the highest ethical, moral standards. And please, keep it that way.

There will come a time when BPI will collapse. As the planets will disappear. As the Sun will disappear. As the universe will disappear. But when all those disappeared, there is only one thing that will endure. And it is your observance of highest ethical standards in everything that you do.

But after God, there is one more that you must remember if you want the money of BPI to bring you to heaven. And what is that? Man.. humanity… Because money is an invention of man, money can not be put on top of man. Money must be used at the service of humanity. Not humanity enslaved by money.

It is when money is used in the service of humanity, for the promotion of humanity that money becomes salvific. It becomes saving. It becomes heavenly. It becomes Godly.

But then, I was hesitating to tell you about this. Because you have been doing this all these years. All these 167 years, you have been doing it.

Now I am telling you: Money, without God, is a curse. Money, without humanity, would be a curse for humanity.

I am telling you this not because you are not doing it. But because I want to affirm and to congratulate you for what you have been doing for the past 167 years.

There are no banks in heaven. But bankers can go to heaven. And bankers should go to heaven. Because your mission is to put God in this bank. Your mission is to put this bank at the service of humanity.

So as I say to you “Congratulations,” I also whisper to God and say: “Lord, thank you for BPI.”

Note: You may email us at totingbunye2000@gmail.com. You may also like us on Facebook at “Speaking Out.”

(Disclosure: The writer is an independent director of BPI and two of its wholly-owned subsidiaries: BPI Asset Management and Trust Corp. and BPI Direct BanKo. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila beneficially owns 8.3 per cent of BPI)