What Do You Really Need?

Lenten Reflections 2016

And that statement, “Lest there not be enough for us” (Mt 25:9), was made out of great humility. The oil that we carry in our own conscience is the judgment that tells us what kind of people we are, and it is difficult for anyone to judge himself perfectly. My brothers and sisters, a person makes progress to the extent that he stretches towards the things that lie ahead and forgets past things (Ph 3:13). If he now says to himself, “Things are fine!”, then that rule comes forth from God’s storehouse that examines things precisely: “Who can boast ‘My heart is chaste’? And who can boast he is clean of sin?” (Prov 20:9) What did Scripture say? “Judgment without mercy will come to the one who does not act mercifully” (Jas 2:13). Whatever progress you make, you will be hoping for mercy. If justice without mercy were to be brought to bear, it would find something to condemn in anyone. Is there a Scripture to comfort us? Yes, it’s the one that urges us to do mercy, to grow in dispensing whatever we have in abundance. If we only keep what is needed, we will have many superfluous possessions, while if we seek silly things, nothing will be enough. Sisters and brothers, seek what suffices for God’s work, not what satisfies your greed. Your greed is not God’s work. Your being, your body, your soul: all that is God’s work. Seek things that suffice, and you’ll see how few they are. The widow’s two coins were enough for her to act mercifully (Mk 12:42); they were enough for her to buy the Kingdom of God. ...

Consider not only that the things that suffice are few but also that God himself does not seek many things from you. Ask how much he has given you, and from that take what suffices. The superfluous things that remain are necessities for others. The superfluous possessions of the rich are necessary for the poor. When you possess things you don’t need, you possess things that belong to others. (EnPs 147, 12; PL 37, 1921-1922)

This reminds me of a saying of Peter Maurin, which goes back to the Greek Fathers: “The extra coat in your closet belongs on the back of a poor person.”

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

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