Calls to die to self and give of self echo throughout the gospels. What strikes me new today is the connection between the stories of preparation and planning and the call to renounce all possessions. The call to renounce possessions in my mind fits easily with the first portion of the gospel; it fits taking up your cross, and being willing to sacrifice family and life. When I see the call to renounce possessions in the light of these first passages it reads as if the key issue is priorities and a willingness to sacrifice when called upon. That “when called upon” is our great loophole is it not? Sure, if I were called to leave my family and all I have with some clear call I would go—but now I’m called to be here – to raise children, to grade papers, to be a spouse, right?
Linking the story of preparing to build the tower and preparing to fight the battle to the renouncing of possessions closes the loophole. Renouncing possessions is the preparation for whatever we’re called to do. We cannot be prepared to be disciples; to see how to give generously to the poor, to really love one another, or to work for justice without that preparation. We are not to renounce if called upon – we’re to renounce in order to be called and to be able to respond.
That leaves the question of what it means to renounce our possessions today in our current circumstances. What is it that we have to let go of, give up, or give to someone else? What greed or possessiveness holds us back? Sweet Honey in the Rock sings a song about how easy it is to see other peoples’ greed and how hard it is to see greed in ourselves. We may be greedy about things other than possessions as well that may limit our ability to love and serve. We may covet our neighbors’ publications or achievements. We may be greedy in hoarding our time.
I thank Jesus for the radical message that He continues to teach and pray that the Spirit helps us each to see what further renunciation needs to occur today so that we are prepared to be true disciples.
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