Friday, September 25, 2015

We Freely Become Slaves

Temptations are a part of life. A seminary professor in the Kyeongyang magazine introduces us to fetishism: excessive attention or attachment to some object, and for him this makes you a slave of that object. He very astutely uses the word slave in Korean which is made up of two syllables 'No' and 'Yeh' (noyeh). A slave, according to the professor,  is one who when he should say no says yes.

In this case, you are acknowledging the control over oneself of something outside, external to oneself,  which makes you a slave. He mentions three reasons for the slavery: attachment to material goods, sexuality and greed and the antidotes are the evangelical counsels: poverty, chastity and obedience. God is the ultimate  meaning of the counsels.  According to the columnist, the strongest of these is our attraction to the material, and when this is the object of our worship, it becomes our fetish.

When Israel left Egypt and were in the desert, they were fed up with the manna they were receiving daily, and wanted to return to slavery and a decent meal. They also wanted something that was more material to express their worship, and made the image of a calf: another throwback to what they possessed when slaves in Egypt.

We have evolved in our day.  We camouflage our thinking:  living well is another way of saying we have money. Excessive  accumulation of material goods is something that we envy and consuming becomes a virtue. Instead of paying attention to the words of Jesus and the apostles we go to the early years of the Scripture where we see the blessings of material goods and possessions, and forget that  "Jesus had  no place to lay his head."

Even tithing is often considered a way of getting more blessings instead of a way of sharing and becomes an investment in future blessings. We see this method of thinking in the story of St. Nicholas in his sharing, and  St.Nicholas (Santa Claus) becomes an idol to promote consumption.

"One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols" #55 of Pope Francis in Joy of the Gospel.

From the beginning of Christianity, there has been no time where wealth has been exalted like the present. We have become slaves of money. We forget persons are what are important, and that politics, economy, society and culture all exist in our environment. Doing harm to the environment is not benefiting us in the long run and will come back to harm us in the future. Creation is God's gift to us, and we need to care for it. When material goods do harm to our environment we  need to learn how to say "No"  when  a "No" is our only answer if we want to be free and caretakers of creation.

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