Reflection on Possessions

Then Jesus called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:38-44 NRSV).

In a Benedictine community, the notion that we “own” anything is unacceptable. In The Rule of St. Benedict, he charges the monastery cellarer to “regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.55). Later in Chapter 33, on Monks and Private Ownership, Benedict quotes from Acts 4:32 writing “All things should be the common possession of all” (p.56). Things and people in a Benedictine community are on loan and not ends in themselves.

We live in a society of consumerism on steroids. The holiday shopping commercials are already in full swing. The better the gift, the less expensive the deal, the more stuff accumulated and the more stuff possesses us. Our false-sense of self becomes more inflated, thinking our security is found in what we own.

In her book Praying with Benedict, Katherine Howard wrote, “The cure for our insecurity is not the accumulation of material goods, but trust in God” (p.101).

The contemplative is always searching for the One who is invisible in what is visible. A contemplative lives in the simplicity of learning that God loans what we use to us, out of God’s abundance. We seek union with God because God is always generous in the revelation of God’s Self disclosure in Jesus the Christ. God sees us from the perspective of being loved, as God gives to us from the fullness of Who God is. God wants us to let go of all that possesses us, so that God is all we desire. The contemplative searches for God with purity of heart. A purity that comes from our essence, that is our eternal truth of who we are in relationship with God. It is in God that we lay the foundation of our true selves.

Abba Moses asked Abba Silvanus, “Can a man lay a new foundation every day?” The old man said, “If he works hard he can lay a new foundation every moment” (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, by Christine Valters Paintner, p.57).

Are you searching for union with God through the things in your life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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