How Much Stuff Do You Actually Need?
In his book entitled, “Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives,” author Wayne Muller speaks of something called the “gospel of consumption.” This term is an expression of the behavior, and in some cases the outright, conscious attitude, that says “more is better, and fast is best.” All of us, in one way or another, have probably fallen victim to this style of living. In eastern religions the basic philosophy about life and achieving true happiness is to let go of more and more as we grow older, not obtain more and more. For many in the west, it’s just the opposite. We live in a society that has, for many years now, taught us to keep moving, keep working, keep obtaining, and to keep up with the Jones’, as the old expression goes. At the same time, we are all probably aware that this is most definitely not the way to inner peace.
In this weekend’s Gospel, Jesus underscores the necessity of “letting go of things” and trusting that God will provide. We come upon the scene in which Jesus is about to send the apostles out to do their ministry. Before they leave, however, Mark tells us that Jesus, “...instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.” (Mk. 6:7-13) The purpose of this instruction was 2-fold: first, so that they could be as detached as possible from anything that would hinder their ministry; second, so that they could see, yet again, that God would provide for all of their needs.
As priests, one of the realities that most of us think about fairly often is the reality of packing and moving to another parish. Moving can be a major pain. There’s sorting, packing, making decisions about what to keep and what to discard, and the actual moving itself. However, there is also an opportunity with moving. If we want to, we can down-size. In fact, down-sizing actually makes the move easier. When I was assigned here at Saint Jude the first time, back in 1991, our parish Director of Religious Education was Sister Susan Moncla. Susan had a very basic philosophy about “stuff.” She once told me, “Trey, if I haven’t used it in a year, then I don’t need it.” Now, I don’t know if everyone would consider a year to be realistic, but her point was and is well-taken. We will all be making “the big move” one day, returning home to God. In the meantime, it would be nice if we could down-size from all that we don’t need, so that we can rely more intently on The One who provides for all of our needs.