Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Poverty the Most difficult of the Evangelical Counsels?

In a pastoral bulletin, a priest tells us about a big ball a child received for Christmas in an orphanage in India. It was the first gift he ever received from anyone, a constant companion. He would sleep with it, never leaving his hands. One, day while playing with the ball on the rooftop it ended up on the street where it was run over by a truck. Going down to the street his feelings were like the flattened ball he picked up.

He cried and cried. A religious brother tried to console the child, patted him on the back. The crying continued. However, the next day the brother saw him playing with his friends and laughing and enjoying himself. The Brother was happy to see that he had forgotten the ball and could go on to find joy in other aspects of life.

He introduces us to a man who showed great interest in buying a new car. He was not well off and with great difficulty bought a foreign car. Since all his attention was concentrated on cars he went for what he considered the best. He was filled with great joy but it required cutting back on his lifestyle. He avoided friends and meetings that would cost money. His car took away the freedom that he once enjoyed. His connection and vanity with the car took away his freedom. He was possessed by the car.

Many are the wise who have told us the less we possess the more we own. The less attachment to the material the more we enjoy the material.  Voluntary poverty is freeing oneself from obsession  and a life of grabbing and clinging.

Jesus in the Beatitudes tells us: "How happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven." This is an important teaching of Jesus. If we are detached we will be free. It is not having much or little but not being bound and free for everything.

St. Paul was a free man. " I am not talking about the shortage of money: I have learned to manage on whatever I have. I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich too. I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere:  full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty" (Phil. 4:11).

We all are familiar with the Evangelical Counsels: Poverty, Chasity, and Obedience. They call us to the spirit of detachment. Most Catholics would understand Chastity of life and Obedience to God but when it comes to Poverty we are open to all kinds of interpretations. They apply to all baptized Catholics but possibly few would accept this in the manner of life we choose.

Ironic as it may sound poverty calls us to have more not less. When we are attached to the material we miss so much that is immaterial because our gaze is only on what we see. Poverty allows us to be more interested in what is good, true and beautiful and the oneness of life. When obsessed with the visible does it not close our eyes to the important things in life?

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