The early Christians gave away all their personal possessions to help the poor among them. Jesus told the rich man that he needed to give up all he had in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. When Antony heard these things, he gave up all his land to the villagers, sold his possessions and gave the money to the poor. He placed his young sister in a convent. He was known as a wise man who taught others.
What shall I do with this message? When I think about helping the poor in this modern consumer society, I realize that material needs are well met as a rule by the State. In this world of competitive consumption, material generosity, unless judiciously distributed, encourages people down a road of materialism and pleasure, the road to perdition, away from the Light. Yet, it is perhaps best not to be too focused on assessing the worth of the recipients, — more on the true value of what is offered. Perhaps gifts to Habitat to Humanity are best, or even to Goodwill.
The more important lesson is that the very act of giving, along with the abandonment of ownership, freely and generously without attempting to gauge or control the impact, are the most salutary actions for the donor’s soul There are numerous opportunities for free and spontaneous giving from the heart — Goodwill, Habitat, Church programs, panhandlers, Feed More, family members…. Even selling items of Amazon has virtue it that it can entail a commitment to possess less; as can throwing away stuff that nobody wants.
There is also giving to a legacy for those who depend on me. I feel uncomfortable about Antony’s treatment of his sister. If she entered the convent freely with an open heart, then she indeed received the best gift. But making a spiritual decision for another is a dicey matter; yet simply leaving her destitute, forcing a detachment from material possessions, would also be spiritually harmful.
As for my family, leaving them the best possible inheritance remains a worthy commitment, especially if it is accompanied by my self-denial in material things.
Focusing on Spirit is my personal commitment to God.
My Lectio was John 6 today. I look forward to the day when I can receive the Eucharist!
In Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, St. Claude de la Colombiere writes that God does indeed will all that happens — hence things that happen due to evil intent are not evil in themselves; rather the evil is inherent in the intent, which is not of God.
He quotes Rodriguez (following St. Chrysostom): “The highest, purest and most excellent part of this love [of God] is absolute conformity to the Divine Will, and having in all things no other will but God’s.”
Colombiere: “Hence the more we submit to God’s design for us, the more we advance towards perfection.”
He quotes Teresa of Avila: “Whoever makes a habit of prayer should think only of doing everything to conform his will to God’s. Be assured that in this conformity consists the highest perfection we can attain, and those who practice it with the greatest care will be favored by God’s greatest gift and will make the quickest progress in the interior life. Do not imagine there are other secrets. All our good consists in this.”
Colombiere: “To remain indifferent to good fortune or to adversity by accepting it all from the hand of God without questioning, not to ask for things to be done as we would like them but as God wishes, to make the intention of all our prayers that God’s will should be perfectly accomplished in ourselves and in all creatures is to find the secret of happiness and content.”
“The conforming of our will to God’s is not limited to the attainment of our eternal salvation. It also has the effect of making us happy on this earth. It will give us the most perfect peace it is possible to experience in life and is the means of making this world a foretaste of Heaven.”
“In order for us to enjoy peace and calm we need to have nothing opposing our will and everything done in the way we want it. But who can expect to have such happiness except the man whose will is entirely conformed to the will of God?”
“It is obvious that unhappiness comes not from what others feel but from what we feel ourselves. Whatever our situation is, we must be happy if we are just as we wish to be. Certainly we will still feel pain and sorrow, but they affect us only in the lower part of our being without being able to influence the mind. Obedient and resigned to the will of His Father, our Saviour did not cease to be filled with the utmost joy and happiness in the midst of the most grievous sufferings it is possible to imagine.”
He notes Christ’s call to us to take up his cross daily and follow him, but his further promise that his yoke will be sweet and his burden light. “If then we do not experience the sweetness of Christ’s yoke nor the lightness of the burden of the cross, it must be because we have not yet made the denial of our will and completely given up our human outlook so as to consider things in the light of faith.”
There are remarkable parallels to the teachings of Epictetus in all this!