The world entices us with material wealth, celebrity and carnal pleasures. God gives us a poor, suffering servant for our king. The world celebrates those who have looks, talent, intelligence, and who use these to make a name and a fortune for themselves. It may not be questioned: this is what everyone aspires to. There is nothing else.
The Church celebrates the saints, reflections of Jesus in every age. St. Anthony the abbot was a wealthy young man. He went to church one day and heard Jesus say “Sell all you have and give to the poor. Then come follow me.” So he did. By completely placing himself in God’s hands, he found total freedom. God liberated him from his “self”, that illusion of our fallen nature that we should somehow have desires of our own, distinct from God’s will for us. He was then free be what God meant him to be.
St. Francis discovered the perfect joy of poverty and self denial for love of God. So many people, having every luxury and comfort, feel empty and find their lives meaningless. Francis chose a hard life, suffered greatly, but found joy even in his sufferings.
Even those born to royalty either eschewed their royal positions to embrace poverty and service, or like St. Louis, lived a penitential life and used his position to care for and lift up the poor.
How we foolishly burden ourselves with material possessions, waste our time and our lives feeding our selfish passions, which are never satisfied.
Now, are you ready to sell all you have and give to the poor? Then what? Join a religious order? Preach on the street? I often have experienced what seems to be the “call” to do just that.
Two things have held me back:
1.If I sold all that I had I would have nothing to give to the poor but a reduced but significant amount of debt. I’m not proud of it, but that’s where I am.
2. What possessions I do have, and more significantly, my time and presence are not entirely mine to give. They are shared with and committed to my spouse and children.
I’m sure I’m not the only one in this position, and would love to hear from others who might feel the same radical call, but are bound by sacred duty to the material and moral welfare of family.
I’m fully aware that, while this is a noble reason for not abandoning the world, it also offers a convenient cover for my fear and lack of faith.
My approach has been to try my best to eschew luxuries and to constantly try to raise the bar that defines “luxury”. I try to consider everything I do from the point of view of the Gospel–what I eat and drink; what I listen to, watch and read; what I buy and how I spend my time. I’m definitely far from the ideal of poverty and simplicity, and I can’t lay the blame entirely on concessions to my family. But I’m not giving up. And I think that’s the key in all our noblest endeavors. It’s great to clear your mind and heart and arrive at the ideal. But usually, when we attempt to carry it out, we meet obstacles from within and without. We must strive in every way, no matter how small, day in and day out, to live that freedom from self that our Lord came to teach us, and gave His last drop of blood without reservation to win for us.
May He bless all your prayers and efforts.