Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Minimal Life and Spirituality

Tomorrow we begin the Season of Lent and begin living the Paschal Mystery so that it will become second nature to us: we die so we can live. At the liturgy we receive ashes on the forehead and hear that we came from dust and will return to dust. Sad as it may sound, it's the journey to happiness in this life and the one to come.

A seminary professor of spiritually writes in the Kyeongyang magazine about the minimal life. We empty ourselves so God can fill us with himself. He quotes a well know Buddhist monk who was well known for his 'lack of possessions' which to the monk was the way of having the whole world open to him. A different religion but makes sense to all of us. It's not the possessions but our attachment that is the problem. It takes our attention and freedom away from the important things in life.

Minimal life is a world-wide topic of discussion in recent times and can be compared to our evangelical counsel of poverty. Is this truly the fact that poverty is a means toward happiness? The Scriptures also tell us that God is the one who gives wealth. Why does Jesus say the poor will find happiness? Those who choose to live the life of poverty are not the same as those who without choice have to live in poverty.

It's not that poverty in itself is a good but a condition in which we can find joy in life. The poor need to rely on God more than those with wealth. The life of the counsels is to imitate and be united with Jesus. Poverty, chastity and obedience are a means of being united with Jesus. Not the acts themselves but what they enable us to do is important. If riches allowed us to be one with Jesus that should be our choice.

St. Ignatius of Loyola expressed this with the word 'indifference'. We choose the way that will enable us to attain the object for which we were created. Wealth or poverty is not what is important but our relationship with God.

Why then does the Church put so much emphases on poverty instead of wealth? The reason is that wealth has a stronger pull on our actions and a greater temptation to pull us way from God. When God is the center of our lives than whether its wealth or poverty, health or sickness, slight or honor is not important, but the freedom we enjoy.

When we say God is the center of our lives we are at the same time saying that we are open to the love of our neighbor. We are open to others and willingly giving ourselves to others. This is living the life of love and the virtues. It's then we enjoy the peace that Jesus gives and not the world's peace.

If the minimal life is only a way to manage our material things and to feel unburdened with the material it's good, but only another way to be centered on ourselves. Here again we take center stage and not God. This, as we have learned, does not last long. We want to fill our lives with what will not disappear. When we gaze on ourselves this is extremely narrow. We want to bring into view our neighbor and beyond to God. It's then that our life becomes filled beyond imagination.

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