Monday, October 12, 2009

Reflecting on Materialism

We are now up to the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Our Gospel reading this week is from Mark. Complete texts of the Gospel as well as all the other readings from Sunday's Mass are available here: October 11 readings.

Question: In what ways am I too attached to material things?

"Detachment from riches is necessary for entering the Kingdom of heaven" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2556). Hence "the Lord grieves over the rich because they find their consolation in the abundance of goods (CCC 2547). In contrast, "Jesus enjoins his disciples to prefer him to everything and everyone," to enter into what the Catechism describes as "poverty of heart" (CCC 2544). "All Christ's faithful are to direct their affections rightly, lest they be hindered in their pursuit of perfect charity by the use of worldly things and by an adherence to riches which is contrary to the spirit of evangelical poverty" (CCC 2545).

This is one of those Gospel readings that really makes you think. I know everytime I hear it I wonder if I am doing what is necessary to enter the Kingdom of God. And then I wonder, does Jesus mean that rich people cannot enter the Kingdom because they are rich??

I believe the answer to that last question is no. All people can enter the Kingdom of God. I think having wealth gives you a greater responsibility toward your fellow man and many people who have wealth or somehow acquire wealth during their life lose sight of that. Not all, but many do.

But this reflection isn't supposed to be on wealth only, more specifically let's focus on materialism.

For me, I try to not get too attached to material things. I think the "things" in my life that I treasure the most, besides the people I love, are the sentimental things. Pictures, old cards and letters, yearbooks, all the things that remind you of the past and the people who have touched your life. But if all those things disappeared, I still have them in my memory. Maybe not as detailed, but they'll be there.

Here's how I thought about this: if my house was burning down what would I want to grab on the way out?

Well ... nothing material, really. Me and my husband for sure. Otherwise, everything else is replaceable. The only thing that might be worth grabbing are some particular files and maybe the computer. Not because we value those "things" exactly, but because there is information on them we might need. But if it came down to it, we could probably live without that information. I wouldn't be grabbing anything just because of some stupid material worth of the item itself.

But to be honest, I am attached to material things just like everyone else. It's the reason I still hold onto my stuffed animals from my childhood. They are boxed up in the attic, but I still have them. I can't get rid of books or notes and handouts from classes or lectures I have found particularly meaningful. I like the nice things we have and I enjoy our comfortable lifestyle. But I know I could live without it.

But is that what Jesus is telling the rich man in the Gospel? That he is too comfortable and needs to rid himself of everything. Well, yes, I guess he is. But how does that translate to our time? In much the same way. We still need to have shelter and food; God provides is with an intellect and skills to be able to work hard to provide those necessities for ourselves and our families. Beyond that, we are to use what we have to help the people around us as well.

We do that in our household. We budget a certain percentage of our earnings every year to assist pre-designated charities, our Church, and other ways of giving to assist others. We make it a priority in our budget. We struggle a little with this, not because we want to skrimp at all on our giving, but because I start wanting to give to more than we can really afford. My husband sometimes has to reel me back in.

I think I'm starting to digress from the subject at hand. Sorry for the rambling ...

I think we are all attached to material things in more ways than one. It is something we all struggle with. But I like to remind myself that if everything did go up in flames, how much would I really care about? As long as my family was safe and healthy, that's really all that matters.

What are your thoughts on this questions: In what ways are you too attached to material things?

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