Discernment in Action Week 2: How Much Do I Need?

(Homily for Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B)

Message: How do I determine how much I need for myself and those dependent on me? That's a question for prudence and wisdom.

This is the second of a three part mini-series on Discernment in Action. Last week we focused on the gift of sexuality - masculinity & femininity. We now turn to another basic gift: property - economic resources, finances.

In the Gospel a man recognizes Jesus as the embodiment of wisdom so he asks the big question, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"*

Jesus gives a simple direct answer, "You know the commandments." Indeed, we all do. Even the person who never memorized them, knows them: You shall not kill, i.e. take an innocent human life, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not lie, honor your father and your mother.**

The commandments are so commonplace - and let's be honest, so demanding - that we eagerly skip to the second part. Go, sell what you have, give to the poor... It seems like a way out. If I give to the poor maybe my sexual sins won't matter.

When growing up I remember assurances that the true poor man practices detachment.*** That interpretation has a venerable history, but it can lead to self-deception. Last year a young woman who had a $600,000 a year job handed to her, asked herself if "on some fundamental level" she could care about money. She concluded, "I couldn't." I thought about people in my parish - and especially in Peru - who would eagerly wait to get a few crumbs from her table.

I'm not pushing for class war. I want the rich to have eternal life as much as the poor. If you desire eternal life, keep the commandments. The one about stealing means that when you have sufficient for your basic needs, everything else belongs to the poor. If I say, "money matters not me," but hang on to property and financial reserves I really don't need, I am stealing. (Catechism # 2446)

How do I determine how much I need for myself and those dependent on me? That's a question for prudence and wisdom. Have you actually prayed about that question? Prayer, gratitude, focus.**** Amen.


*"Inherit" is a telling verb. The man lives in a world of financial transactions.

**Referring to the commandments, C.S. Lewis stated that "a consistent practice of virtue by the human race even for ten years would fill the earth from pole to pole with peace, plenty, health, merriment, and heartsease."

***Thus Bill Gates can live in his $150 millon home and enjoy his beach with sand imported from a Carribean island - and still slip through the eye of that needle.

****In your prayer here are words from St Philip Neri you can take to the bank, "Cast yourself with confidence into the arms of God. And be very sure of this, that if he wants anything of you he will fit you for your work and give you strength to do it."

Spanish Version

Plan for this mini-series:

October 4: Discernment in Action Week 1: Masculinity & Femininity
October 11: Discernment in Action Week 2: How Much Do I Need?
October 18: Discernment in Action Week 3:

From Archives (28th Ordinary Sunday - Year B):

2012: Faith and Eternal Life
2009: The Best Exegetes
2006: Prudence
2003: You Know the Commandments
2000: What Must I Do to Have Everlasting Life?

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