The readings from Proverbs and Luke both remind us today how difficult it is to live in this world and also grow closer to God. One also can certainly comprehend the influence these passages must have had on Ignatius as he was discovering his own spirituality and developing the Spiritual Exercises.
“Give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the food I need” says Proverbs. How difficult it is to strike this balance in a world that measures, perhaps more than any other time in human history, success based on the ability to amass and command material goods! How easy it is for so many people to consume more than they need, whether it be food or housing or clothing or scarce resources such as fuel and water. And how hard it is for most of us to recognize that this call to balance is not just for our own lives and well-being, but also so we will be aware of our impact on our natural world and our fellow creatures.
Jesus sends the disciples off on their ministry with not much more than the clothes on their back, challenging them to have faith that what they need in material items will come to them. The psalmist indicates that by following the Lord’s precepts we can gain discernment; by teaching the disciples to have a detachment from material goods, Jesus guides them to find discernment in simplicity and faith. If our focus is on “stuff” how can it also be on where God is calling us?
We have so much more today than the disciples had two thousand years ago. Our creature comforts, for the vast majority of society, would be unimaginable to a contemporary of Jesus. In many cases they have become “necessities.” Cable television, dishwashers, microwaves, and so on all are so engrained in our lives that we cannot imagine doing without. So are we challenged to give up these items? We live in this world, not the ancient one, and so we need to measure our “needs” in different terms. But we can have the attitude of detachment. We can recognize that material items are not ends in themselves. We can place our drive for success in perspective. We can strive to live simpler lives. We can let go of our things, not embrace them. We can try to do without, or use less, not more.
Hard? Of course. But when I pray the Suscipe of Ignatius, I remind myself of this simplicity, this balance, toward which the scriptures call us. And so my prayer for today is the Suscipe:
“Take Lord and receive all my liberty.
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