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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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Bartholomew: In the New Testament, Bartholomew is mentioned only in the lists of the apostles. Some scholars identify him with Nathanael, a man of Cana in Galilee who was summoned to Jesus by Philip. Jesus paid him a great compliment: “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him” (John 1:47b). When Nathanael asked how Jesus knew him, Jesus said, “I saw you under the fig tree” (John 1:48b). Whatever amazing revelation this involved, it brought Nathanael to exclaim, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (John 1:49b). But Jesus countered with, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this” (John 1:50b). 
<p>Nathanael did see greater things. He was one of those to whom Jesus appeared on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias after his resurrection (see John 21:1-14). They had been fishing all night without success. In the morning, they saw someone standing on the shore though no one knew it was Jesus. He told them to cast their net again, and they made so great a catch that they could not haul the net in. Then John cried out to Peter, “It is the Lord.” </p><p>When they brought the boat to shore, they found a fire burning, with some fish laid on it and some bread. Jesus asked them to bring some of the fish they had caught, and invited them to come and eat their meal. John relates that although they knew it was Jesus, none of the apostles presumed to inquire who he was. This, John notes, was the third time Jesus appeared to the apostles.</p> American Catholic Blog While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.<br /> –St. Francis of Assisi

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