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Bible Reflections View Comments

Don't Let Stuff Get in the Way
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, August 4, 2013
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A family cleaning out the house of someone who has died often wonders why on earth Mom or Dad or Aunt Lucy kept so much seemingly useless stuff. Then someone else in the family comes along and says, “You can’t throw that out. I remember eating off those dishes when I was in kindergarten and home sick for a week.” Many of us tend to attach a great deal of emotional significance to things. Organizing experts are constantly telling us, “Keep the memories; lose the stuff.”

Drive along nearly any highway and before long you’ll see row after row of storage facilities, garage-like structures where people store the possessions that no longer fit in their own homes and garages. They may never retrieve those things, but they’re not willing to let them go. They spent good money on those things and someday they’re going to have a spectacular home in which to display them!

Not a day goes by that I don’t get three to five emails from online retailers offering me some great deal on more stuff that I don’t need. At least tossing these offers in the virtual trash doesn’t contribute to an overflowing landfill.

We live in a society with a great attachment to material things. Our economy depends on people buying more things on a steady basis to keep the supply-and-demand curves moving. And often the people at the top of this manufacturing chain are hoarding not stuff but profits.

We recognize extreme forms of hoarding as a psychological disorder, but we don’t realize that the lines between accumulating stuff and hoarding aren’t always clear. Nor are the lines between greed and financial prudence.

The parable Jesus tells in today’s Gospel may come from a rural culture, but its message still speaks to us today. The man in his story is doing so well that he pulls down his existing barns and builds new ones. The implication here is that it never occurred to him to share his surplus with his neighbors instead. But as soon as the barns are finished and filled, the man dies.

Jesus tells the parable in the context of two brothers arguing over their shares of the inheritance they were to receive from their father. Again, the underlying reality is clear: This wasn’t anything they had earned. It was essentially a gift from their father.

Too often we lay claim to things that we think we need and then, once we have them, we cling to them and refuse to share, to the detriment of the relationships in our lives. We do this as individuals, we do this as nations. We take for granted, or even forget, that the most important things we have are free gifts from our heavenly Father: our families and friends, our faith, our life itself. We can lose sight of this in our quest for material things.

It’s easy to feel threatened by today’s Gospel. Nagging feelings of insecurity prod us to save what we have against some future famine, real or metaphorical. We lose sight of the fact that while we worry about the future, people all around us are going without today. The lectionary readings today urge us to reach beyond this fear to embrace the things that matter most to God: life, love, generosity, faith. Secure in those gifts, we can let go of some of our possessions. Then we will have true treasure in heaven.


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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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