Tuesday, October 5, 2010
“As it is written, ‘Whoever had much did not have more, and whoever had little did not have less.’” 2 Corinthians 8: 15
Yesterday was the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi and one of the things he is most known for is his great poverty and simplicity. Let’s face it, not many people are going to be so radical for God that they strip naked in front of the bishop and townsfolk in order to give back their clothes to their father in order to be completely free to follow God. But that’s exactly what St. Francis did. And he (and his followers) continued to live in poverty, begging for their food and necessities.
Even in our own modern society, we see Franciscan Brothers willing to be more and more in poverty in order to be more and more like St. Francis. Some even go so far as to only eat and live on what they can beg for and nothing more.
But what about you and me? What if we are not called to live as a religious brother with vows of chastity, poverty and obedience? I think we are still called to simplicity. And with today’s unhealthy focus on materialism and consumerism, trying to live simply as a lay person is almost as radical as St. Francis in his day. Why? Because everywhere we look we are bombarded with the idea that we need more, that we should WANT more, that we will only be happy with more and more and more. And yet, either right at the surface, or deep down in our hearts, we know this isn’t true. We know that no amount of “stuff” can fill the longing in our hearts.
This is where simplicity takes on value. It is an attempt to live below our means. To recognize those around us with less, to associate ourselves with them and to share what we have. I once heard that the whole of Catholic social justice teaching can be summed up in one statement: “No one should have too much, until everyone has enough.” So what is “too much”? I think this is something we each need to pray about and ask the Lord to reveal to us. For the rich young man in the Gospel, it meant selling everything and giving all the money to the poor. For others it means less than that. At a minimum, it means detaching ourselves from the desire for things. Then after that we need to let the Lord lead us and then be obedient to His will.
It could mean that we don’t need four choices of jellies or jams in our refrigerators when one would be plenty. For others it might mean eating beans and rice every Friday in solidarity with the poor. For someone else it might mean getting rid of the sports car for something more practical. For young people it might mean less money and time spent on entertaining yourselves and more time spent in service to others.
We may not all be called to take the vow of poverty, but each of us can certainly live more simply in our world. Take the time today to ask God how you can do this.
Dear Jesus, I want to live a life of simplicity. I want to be less focused on things and more focused on You and others, especially those in need. Please give me the grace to let go of the desire for more things and to open my heart to simplicity according to Your will. Amen.