By Father Jake Greiner
Moving is hard. I have just recently completed a move from Knoxville to Davenport to begin my new assignment, and like all people facing a move I had to make some decisions about my possessions. As I systematically went through college notes, books, clothing and personal items, I kept asking the following: “Do I really need this anymore?” The latter should be a simple “yes” or “no” answer, right? If I do not need it, I get rid of it. If I truly need it, it will get moved.
If you are anything like me, there were not too many simple answers during the move because of the memories and importance attached to my possessions. Addressing whether I “need” something is even harder. It was easy for me to finally recycle many of the college notes that filled close to 25 binders, but I decided to go ahead and move all the books that I have been collecting over the last 20 years. My justification: I will move the books one more time, just in case I need them. For example, I still might need my organic chemistry textbook from 2000 when I was a pre-medicine major in college.
As I added two more book shelves to my new office, it became clear to me that I should let go of these books, but I dutifully got them back on the shelves. These books still possess me in a way, and this is something that was affirmed during the move.
From books to money to everything in between, we have to guard against our possessions beginning to take over our lives. Jesus makes this warning several times throughout the Gospels: “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions” (LK 12:13-14).
Most of us would not consider ourselves to be greedy, but this sin can manifest itself in us having an unhealthy attachment to the possessions in our lives. Therefore, many of us would rather build more storage in our homes or rent more storage space than face the fact that we simply cannot let go of the many possessions in our lives. We might “need” something, but the truth of the matter is that we simply cannot let go of our possessions.
By God’s grace, we hopefully come to the acknowledgement that the many blessings that the Lord has given us must be given away to others. Why? Simply put, it is good stewardship to give to others from our excess, and charity places this demand upon us. The added benefit is that fewer possessions in our lives make us freer to focus on the things that God may be asking of us to focus on in our lives.
For example, we can spend more time in prayer, spend more time with those we love, volunteer or take any number of actions that do not consist in having or maintaining possessions. This is why the religious priests, brothers and sisters who take the vow of poverty are so free to do ministry. When these “poor” people are asked to serve the needs of the church, they do not have to worry about moving their things, but they can simply respond with a resounding “yes.”
Jesus was absolutely correct in that “one’s life does not consist of possessions,” but I still have not gotten rid of one book or many other possessions in my life.
However, I know where I need to go in my life as a priest and follower of Jesus Christ so that I do not become sinful in my desire to hold on to my possessions. I also do not want to move this stuff again. The latter is probably more of a selfish desire, but I believe that the Lord can transform this desire into something beautiful for someone else.
(Fr. Greiner is pastor of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport.)