As I enter into my third year as a Catholic, one of the issues I’ve yet to find peace with is my “stuff” and whether I’m truly living the Catholic life as Jesus wanted while sitting in a nice house in a suburban neighborhood with plenty of food to eat, enough money to clothe my family and indulging in Starbucks Frappuccinos more than I should. I think of Mother Teresa and how far away I am…
Today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 19: 16-22) about the young man who asked Jesus how he could gain eternal life drives the point home even further. Jesus told him to sell all his possessions and give them to the poor and the young man went away sad because he had so many “things.” This also turned out to be the discussion last night at my women’s Christ Renews His Parish meeting. Clearly, God has something to say to me — and possibly you since you are reading this post — on this topic ;-).
Over the weekend, while reading our local diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Moment, I had a “light bulb” Catholic moment about “stuff.” They write that Pope Francis said that the problem isn’t the having of money, but rather when money “owns” us and when we place our own desire for money and wealth over the welfare of others.
They went on to give a great metaphor, saying: “We have to surrender the title to all that we have and all that we are. God holds the title, but still allows us to live in the house.” Lightbulb on!
This is precisely what I agreed to do when going through Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary two years ago. I agreed, and still verbalize this daily, to give Mary the right to “all my goods — both spiritual and physical.” I am giving her charge of all my “stuff” and agreeing that I will accept whatever goods she agrees for me and my family to have — whether much, enough or little. And I’m here to tell you that Mary has been very generous, though she has asked us to do without at times, as well.
This also speaks to a past article I wrote asking the question: Are Catholic bishops living too lavishly?
It seems to me there are several “tests” you could give or questions you could ask yourself to see if indeed money “owns” you, as Pope Francis said, and if it is more of an “idol” to you:
- Are you able to easily let go of things, even sentimental things, realizing you cannot take these items with you to heaven? A friend from my CRHP group told us last night how when her father was at the end of his life, she and her siblings were shocked at how his “stuff” fit in 1 shoebox. We truly can’t take it with us!
- Do you help people financially when they come to you in need or you see them in need?
- Do you contribute something financially to the causes you believe in? Are these line items at the top of your budget to come out first?
- Do you have just one or two of each thing you truly need or do you have a stockpile of sheets, shoes or purses, for example?
- Do you mostly buy things out of need or mostly for pleasure?
- If you had to, could you live the simple life of a monk or nun in one room with only the basics — without being an ogre ;-)?
The young man in the Gospel did not have the right attitude toward money because he went away sad to lose his “stuff,” rather than being open to what Jesus asked him to do with it.
I think the bottom line here, which was a revelation to me, is that it’s OK to have nice things and to have money. Instead, it’s more about your attitude toward it and truly relinquishing your right to these things and giving them to God for his distribution. If money controls you, you are a slave to it. If God controls it, you are simply doing God’s will.