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Bible Reflections View Comments

Don't Let Stuff Get in the Way
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, August 4, 2013
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A family cleaning out the house of someone who has died often wonders why on earth Mom or Dad or Aunt Lucy kept so much seemingly useless stuff. Then someone else in the family comes along and says, “You can’t throw that out. I remember eating off those dishes when I was in kindergarten and home sick for a week.” Many of us tend to attach a great deal of emotional significance to things. Organizing experts are constantly telling us, “Keep the memories; lose the stuff.”

Drive along nearly any highway and before long you’ll see row after row of storage facilities, garage-like structures where people store the possessions that no longer fit in their own homes and garages. They may never retrieve those things, but they’re not willing to let them go. They spent good money on those things and someday they’re going to have a spectacular home in which to display them!

Not a day goes by that I don’t get three to five emails from online retailers offering me some great deal on more stuff that I don’t need. At least tossing these offers in the virtual trash doesn’t contribute to an overflowing landfill.

We live in a society with a great attachment to material things. Our economy depends on people buying more things on a steady basis to keep the supply-and-demand curves moving. And often the people at the top of this manufacturing chain are hoarding not stuff but profits.

We recognize extreme forms of hoarding as a psychological disorder, but we don’t realize that the lines between accumulating stuff and hoarding aren’t always clear. Nor are the lines between greed and financial prudence.

The parable Jesus tells in today’s Gospel may come from a rural culture, but its message still speaks to us today. The man in his story is doing so well that he pulls down his existing barns and builds new ones. The implication here is that it never occurred to him to share his surplus with his neighbors instead. But as soon as the barns are finished and filled, the man dies.

Jesus tells the parable in the context of two brothers arguing over their shares of the inheritance they were to receive from their father. Again, the underlying reality is clear: This wasn’t anything they had earned. It was essentially a gift from their father.

Too often we lay claim to things that we think we need and then, once we have them, we cling to them and refuse to share, to the detriment of the relationships in our lives. We do this as individuals, we do this as nations. We take for granted, or even forget, that the most important things we have are free gifts from our heavenly Father: our families and friends, our faith, our life itself. We can lose sight of this in our quest for material things.

It’s easy to feel threatened by today’s Gospel. Nagging feelings of insecurity prod us to save what we have against some future famine, real or metaphorical. We lose sight of the fact that while we worry about the future, people all around us are going without today. The lectionary readings today urge us to reach beyond this fear to embrace the things that matter most to God: life, love, generosity, faith. Secure in those gifts, we can let go of some of our possessions. Then we will have true treasure in heaven.


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Augustine of Hippo: A Christian at 33, a priest at 36, a bishop at 41: Many people are familiar with the biographical sketch of Augustine of Hippo, sinner turned saint. But really to get to know the man is a rewarding experience. 
<p>There quickly surfaces the intensity with which he lived his life, whether his path led away from or toward God. The tears of his mother (August 27), the instructions of Ambrose (December 7) and, most of all, God himself speaking to him in the Scriptures redirected Augustine’s love of life to a life of love. </p><p>Having been so deeply immersed in creature-pride of life in his early days and having drunk deeply of its bitter dregs, it is not surprising that Augustine should have turned, with a holy fierceness, against the many demon-thrusts rampant in his day. His times were truly decadent—politically, socially, morally. He was both feared and loved, like the Master. The perennial criticism leveled against him: a fundamental rigorism. </p><p>In his day, he providentially fulfilled the office of prophet. Like Jeremiah and other greats, he was hard-pressed but could not keep quiet. “I say to myself, I will not mention him,/I will speak in his name no more./But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,/imprisoned in my bones;/I grow weary holding it in,/I cannot endure it” (Jeremiah 20:9).</p> American Catholic Blog Silence is the ability to trust that God is acting, teaching, and using me—even before I perform or after my seeming failures. Silence is the necessary space around things that allows them to develop and flourish without my pushing. God takes it from there.

 
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