Psalm 100:2, 3, 4, 5
Then he said to the crowd, "Take care to guard against all greed,
for though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions."
It seems too easy in some ways to write about this gospel: “One’s life does not consist of one’s possessions,” Jesus says. Sure, we all know that. I can sit in my very comfortable home, writing this from my powerful computer and rail against consumerism.
I can talk about the global home store, Ikea, whose new advertising campaign is a disgrace. The New York Times describes the ads as an attempt to “encourage North American consumers to throw out their serviceable household furnishings for sake of fashion and just plain fun.” Ikea doesn’t even suggest we recycle or give away our outdated lamps, but to leave them at the curbside with the garbage and then run to their store and buy a new one. I unleash my anger. An outrage. A singular slap in the face to humanity. A total disregard for the poor, for our world’s resources, for the future.
My energy and anger are spent. I pray and I rediscover my own poverty, my own disgraces. I am led to something very simple: I examine my To Do list for this week. What is on it? What are the things I think are important in everyday life? No matter what I say is important to me, I can see that my real values seep through in plans for the day, in the errands.
I don’t believe that Jesus is looking for us to have idle guilt and free-flowing angst with every errand we run. But the choices we make in our lives do reflect who we are and what we think is important.
If we pray with our To Do lists, it offers us many choices. I can stop by the grocery store for a quick dinner for my family. Frozen, individually packaged. But what about the expense? What about the packaging for each one of those convenience foods? How will all of that garbage affect our earth? How much less money will I have available to help others? Will there be more pressure to work longer hours to make up that money?
My kids need shoes for school. I want a new sweater. Do we head unthinkingly for the nearest store and buy what we want? Or do we stop and look at the labels? Where are they made? Under what conditions? Am I supporting a sweatshop with my easy purchase? Is my whim for a new sweater going to further burden the life of an unknown woman in the Third World who is working long hours in a factory under undignified conditions? Have I reflected on how my ordinary trip to the store really does have an impact on the world? What kind of car do I drive and how much gas am I using as I drive around my neighborhood alone? How is my choice of vehicles supporting an oil-needy economy?
“Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”
It’s not just about what is on my list. What is not on it? What is it that “matters to God”? Where in my errands am I taking some consideration for the poor? What am I doing to speak up for the Church teachings against the death penalty, even though I live in a state where the death penalty is enormously popular? How have I given any thought today to the war that is looming for our country? Have I taken the time to understand my choices in the upcoming elections and what those choices mean for the poor?
It feels overwhelming. Come on! I’m just trying to take care of my family. Does everything have to be so hard? And then I remember: I’m trying to fix this all myself instead of relying on God.
Dear Jesus, help me today. Guide me as I decide what to do,
where to spend my money and how to spend my time. Help me to remember
those you have put in my life to care for. Teach me how to guide
my children. Show me how to be more thoughtful about the errands
I am so eager to cross off my To Do list. In the smallest ways today,
help me to live as you ask. Touch my heart to remember it isn’t how
much gets done today but how it gets done.
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