How much stuff do you have? How much stuff do you have that you don’t need? Why?
Sometimes it is simply that we accumulate stuff over time and, if we aren’t forced to go through it, we forget about it or leave it for another day. It may be as simple as the clothes you accumulate over the years but will never wear again. Why not clean them out? If the clothes are in good shape, we can donate them to the needy, showing our love for our neighbor, and honoring the fourth Corporal Work of Mercy to clothe the naked (Matthew 25:36).
At other times, we accumulate more than we need because we are concerned for tomorrow. Now, there is value in being prepared but we must ask ourselves how much we need and not be concerned with our wants. It is about balance. At some point, we simply trust in the Lord, hearing Jesus’ words, “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself” (Matthew 6:34).
At other times, we accumulate more than we need because we are greedy. Greed is one of The Seven Deadly Sins. We want more. If we can afford it, it might not seem like a bad thing. The caution is to be mindful of when our accumulation of things for ourselves begins to deprive others of what they need.
At still other times, we might accumulate more than we need because we think it makes it look good or more important. This would be pride, another one of The Seven Deadly Sins. We ask God for the grace to let go of our pride.
Am I promoting poverty for all?
In Acts 4:32-35, we read, “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.“
Today we generally interpret the poverty described in this passage as pointing to the vow of poverty taken by religious today. As we all called to live poverty in this way? The Catechism of the Catholic Church discusses the right of private property beginning in paragraph 2400. Pope Francis discusses private property in paragraphs 118-123 of his encyclical Fratelli Tutti. (For more on this, see my article reflecting on Pope Francis’ words and what the Church says about private property, “The Right to Private Property and Loving Our Neighbor.”)
We may not all be called to vows of poverty but if we are to be good stewards of what God has given us, we are all called to simplicity of life. It is not the things of this world that bring the eternal joy we are created for. If we give too much importance to material things or our pride, they begin to control us. As we will hear Jesus say in this Sunday’s gospel (25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C), “You cannot serve both God and mammon.”
The things of this world are things, neither good or evil. It is our attachment to them that becomes sinful. For example, some thing money is evil because of what people will do to have more money. Paul puts us on the right track when he says, “For the love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Timothy 6:10).
When we take what we have that we don’t need and give it to the poor, we have done something good. When we stop trying to accumulate more, we let go of the rat race and can give the time we formerly spent in the “rat race” to God.
May the Lord help us to see what we can let go of in our lives as we seek to give our lives to him, loving God and loving our neighbor.