Walking in the Footsteps of Christ – Day 12
Tuesday after 2nd Sunday of Lent
A Lenten Journey with the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis
These Reflections which take the Rule of the Third Order as their springboard, were originally published in Lent 2012 are being republished during Easter 2020 as a way of deepening our faith during the Covid19 pandemic which is affecting the whole world
From the Principles:
The Third Aim:
To live simply (continued)
Though we possess property and earn money to support ourselves and our families, we show ourselves to be true followers of Christ and of Saint Francis by our readiness to live simply and to share with others.
From St Francis:
Of Poverty and Weapons
The Bishop of Assisi once said to Francis, ‘I think your life is too hard, too rough. You don’t possess anything in this world.’
And Francis replied: ‘My Lord, if we had possessions, we would need weapons to defend them.’ (Anonymous of Perugia, 17)
The goods of this world are the gifts of a generous God, which is why in the Old Testament one of the afflictions of Job is to have all his possessions (money and family – the signs of God’s blessing) removed from him. How distant this picture is from Jesus’ teaching on the difficulties the rich face on entering the Kingdom and the futility of mega-barn building. His teaching is this, ‘I have blessed you, not that you may live in excess, but that you may share your blessings with others’. Once again we need to remember that to those whom much has been given much is expected.
I often feel physically sick at some of the excesses of modern society. Epitomised by an advert I once saw for a luxury motor car which, Gollum like had the slogan ‘I want it because I want it’, as if avarice was a sufficient ethic to live by. We too easily forget that the most important things in life aren’t ‘things’ and instead of commanding our wealth and possessions we end up being subservient to them and, as Francis tells the Bishop, ‘need weapons to defend them.’
The two of the Seven Deadly Sins that speak most to our abuse of possessions are greed and lust.
Greed is having what we cannot use.
Lust is wanting what we cannot have.
Both are an utter waste of time and proof of our faithlessness in a God who gives us all that we need in due season. The faithful need no barns for their goods nor do they hanker after the possessions of others. They know that God will provide for them and through them provide for others (cf 2 Corinthians 8.13-15 and cross references). Do we not believe that our Father in heaven knows what we need before we ask?
How do we balance being stewards of all of God’s good gifts around us and yet not end up being possessed by our possessions?
One of my lecturers at UNISA in Pretoria often attracted disdainful looks and sniggers from other colleagues on the Faculty because he always wore out his clothes and drove a beat up old Volvo (what South Africans call a ‘skedonk’). All this was, to him, like water off a duck’s back. When asked about his attitude to possessions and the rat race he had this to say, ‘There are two ways to be wealthy in this world; you either earn more or you desire less’. Having chosen the latter he was one of the most contented people I have ever known and had worked out how to give those two empty sins, greed and lust, the boot.
There are many reasons why there is inequality in the world and those who have possessions are just as much hard-working citizens as those who have few of this world’s goods. But wherever we find ourselves we must hear and obey the call to ‘live simply and to share with others’.
The antidote for greed is to live simply.
The answer to lust is to share with those in need.
Try it, you will find yourself walking with a lighter step.
The Rich Young Man (Mark 10.17-22)
Lord, what are my riches?
What stops me giving everything to you?
What weighs me down and ties my hands?
What denies me true freedom?
Show me, and give me grace to abandon my idols,
so that, when you look at me with love,
I shall not walk away
What do you have that you cannot use?
To whom will you give it?
Make a list of the things you have given away this year
How can you add to this list?
99 Words to Breathe:
Life is so much simpler than people make it out to be. With respect to any serious decision, does your proposal take us closer to our ideal society? If so, do it. If not, don’t. Then stop worrying and go play cricket unless, of course, your bizarre notion of Utopia does not include such pleasures…
Clive Stafford Smith
director UK charity Reprieve, representing prisoners on death row
and held in secret prisons beyond the rule of law
‘The Principles’ are from the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis – this version amended for corporate reading by Andrew Dotchin
‘The Words of Francis’ are from ‘Through the Year with Francis of Assisi’ selected and translated by Murray Bodo – copyright © Collins Fount 1988
Prayers are from ‘The Book of a Thousand Prayers’ compiled by Angela Ashwin – copyright © Zondervan 1996
‘You have breath for no more than 99 Words. What would they be?’ were collected by Liz Gray – copyright © DLT 2011
These Reflections, ‘Walking in the Footsteps of Christ’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged