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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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Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows: Born in Italy into a large family and baptized Francis, he lost his mother when he was only four years old. He was educated by the Jesuits and, having been cured twice of serious illnesses, came to believe that God was calling him to the religious life. Young Francis wished to join the Jesuits but was turned down, probably because of his age, not yet 17. Following the death of a sister to cholera, his resolve to enter religious life became even stronger and he was accepted by the Passionists. Upon entering the novitiate he was given the name Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows.
<p>Ever popular and cheerful, Gabriel quickly was successful in his effort to be faithful in little things. His spirit of prayer, love for the poor, consideration of the feelings of others, exact observance of the Passionist Rule as well as his bodily penances—always subject to the will of his wise superiors— made a deep impression on everyone.
</p><p>His superiors had great expectations of Gabriel as he prepared for the priesthood, but after only four years of religious life symptoms of tuberculosis appeared. Ever obedient, he patiently bore the painful effects of the disease and the restrictions it required, seeking no special notice. He died peacefully on February 27, 1862, at age 24, having been an example to both young and old.
</p><p>Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows was canonized in 1920.</p> American Catholic Blog Life is not always happy, but our connections to others can create a simple and grace-filled quiet celebration of our own and others’ lives. These others are the presence of Christ in our lives.


 
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