Do Our Possessions Possess Us? Learning the Logic of Giving on the Path to Evangelical Freedom
Pope Benedict reminds us, no matter what our income, of the dangers of having our possessions possess us
When we come to see that everything in our lives is a gift to be given back to the Giver, we begin to learn the way of simplicity. Only then can the goods of the earth be fully entrusted to us by the Lord who is their Source. Only then can we discover the secret of heaven's economy: those who live in simplicity are the richest people on the earth. Jesus called them the "poor in spirit." He promised them blessedness. He proclaimed that the kingdom of heaven belongs to them (Matt 5:3).
CHESAPEAKE, VA. (Catholic Online) - The Gospels of Matthew and Mark describe an encounter between Jesus and a wealthy young man. He had followed the commandments since his youth, but Jesus told him that was not enough. He instructed the young man to give up his possessions and follow Him. The man refused and went away sad. He had missed the Encounter with the One who would have satisfied his every longing. His possessions possessed him.
On October 14, 2012, I proclaimed the story at the Sunday Liturgy. (Matt. 10:17 - 30) and after Mass, read the insights Pope Benedict XVI gave to the faithful who had gathered in St. Peters square. He reminded them, "God can conquer the heart of a person with many possessions and lead him towards solidarity and sharing with the poor and needy, so that he can enter into the logic of giving."
"Jesus teaches that it is very difficult but not impossible for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. Indeed, through the 'the logic of giving', a person may follow the path of Jesus Christ Who, as the Apostle Paul wrote, 'for your sake ... became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich'".
Benedict noted that the young man, "had not found true happiness. For this reason, he asked Jesus 'what must I do to inherit eternal life?' On the one hand he was attracted, like everyone else, to the fullness of life; on the other, being used to his wealth, he thought he could somehow 'buy' eternal life, perhaps by observing some special commandment".
His desires were disordered in "his sense of attachment to his great riches". In the encounter, Jesus invited him to freedom. By giving everything to the poor he would learn that, "his treasure - and therefore his heart - should be in heaven and not on earth. Jesus told the man: 'Come, follow me!' However, instead of welcoming Jesus' invitation with joy, he went away sadly because he could not give up his possessions, which could never give him happiness and eternal life"
Then Jesus told him, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God". However, seeing His disciples' perplexity he added: "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God. The history of the Church is full of examples of rich people who have used their wealth evangelically, even attaining sainthood. Suffice to mention St. Francis, St. Elisabeth of Hungary and St. Charles Borromeo".
Pope Benedict reminds us, no matter what our income, of the dangers of having our possessions possess us. We are called to learn the logic of giving. Whenever I proclaim this Gospel I am reminded of the angel's words to Mary "Nothing is impossible with God." Mary's treasure was the One whom she carried in her womb, birthed for the world, and followed throughout her life.
So it should be with each of us. When we begin to recognize our own poverty of spirit; we are able to live lives that are completely dependent upon Jesus, who is the Bread of Life. Only He can satisfy the hunger of the human heart. Only He should occupy the place within us that is to be reserved for worship and complete devotion. When we have Him, we have everything; even though we may possess nothing.
When we discover that everything in our lives is a gift to be given back to the Giver, we begin to learn the way of simplicity. Only then can the goods of the earth be fully entrusted to us by the Lord who is their Source. Only then can we discover the secret of heaven's economy: those who live in simplicity are the richest people on the earth. Jesus called them the "poor in spirit." He promised them blessedness. He proclaimed that the kingdom of heaven belongs to them (Matt 5:3).
One of the challenges we have is developing the right relationship with what the Christian faith calls the "goods" of the earth. A wrong relationship with the goods of the earth, a disordered relationship, leads to a blindness of spirit and a neglect of the One who is Goodness Himself, the Lord.
We read another sobering story of a Rich Man in the Gospel of Luke.
We encounter him after he has died. (Luke 16:19-31) He had also fallen
into the trap of embracing a wrong relationship with the goods of the
earth. His disordered appetites blinded him. He failed to see the need
of his brother Lazarus:
"There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
"The rich man also died and ...
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