Monday, August 19, 2002

Rich Young Man
I dread homilies about the story of the rich young man because they invariable begin with, "Of course, this reading does not mean we are all called to radical poverty...." And then they often emphasize that it is not material poverty that is important, but spiritual. We have to let go of anger, or some other deadly sin. I beg to differ. I think this reading is all about attachment to material possessions and power.

First of all, I don't think you should ever tell Americans that material dispossession as a spiritual act is not a good thing. I think we are plain drowning in material possessions that are preventing us from focusing on the One Thing Necessary and keeping our eyes on that which is above. I know I am.

Second, I think we are all called to radical dispossession. That, I believe, is what the fundamental principle of Catholic social teachings, the universal destination of goods, is all about. Whatever we have in our possesssion is given to us for the benefit of all, especially the poor, period. If we enjoy them ourselves it is because in some way that self-enjoyment is for the benefit of all. For instance, we all need recreation (although certainly not as much recreation and entertainment as we Americans get, me included).

I think many Americans (and many Europeans) are blinded to the real plight of the poor people of the world by preoccupation their possessions and their entertainment.

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