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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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Francis de Sales: Francis was destined by his father to be a lawyer so that the young man could eventually take his elder’s place as a senator from the province of Savoy in France. For this reason Francis was sent to Padua to study law. After receiving his doctorate, he returned home and, in due time, told his parents he wished to enter the priesthood. His father strongly opposed Francis in this, and only after much patient persuasiveness on the part of the gentle Francis did his father finally consent. Francis was ordained and elected provost of the Diocese of Geneva, then a center for the Calvinists. Francis set out to convert them, especially in the district of Chablais. By preaching and distributing the little pamphlets he wrote to explain true Catholic doctrine, he had remarkable success. 
<p>At 35 he became bishop of Geneva. While administering his diocese he continued to preach, hear confessions and catechize the children. His gentle character was a great asset in winning souls. He practiced his own axiom, “A spoonful of honey attracts more flies than a barrelful of vinegar.” </p><p>Besides his two well-known books, the <i>Introduction to the Devout Life</i> and <i>A Treatise on the Love of God</i>, he wrote many pamphlets and carried on a vast correspondence. For his writings, he has been named patron of the Catholic Press. His writings, filled with his characteristic gentle spirit, are addressed to lay people. He wants to make them understand that they too are called to be saints. As he wrote in <i>The Introduction to the Devout Life</i>: “It is an error, or rather a heresy, to say devotion is incompatible with the life of a soldier, a tradesman, a prince, or a married woman.... It has happened that many have lost perfection in the desert who had preserved it in the world. ” </p><p>In spite of his busy and comparatively short life, he had time to collaborate with another saint, Jane Frances de Chantal (August 12), in the work of establishing the Sisters of the Visitation. These women were to practice the virtues exemplified in Mary’s visit to Elizabeth: humility, piety and mutual charity. They at first engaged to a limited degree in works of mercy for the poor and the sick. Today, while some communities conduct schools, others live a strictly contemplative life.</p> American Catholic Blog St. John of the Cross put it succinctly when writing about the virtue of love (which is the core of every virtue, so it applies equally to trust, humility, gratitude): “Where there is no love, put love, and you will find love.”

 
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