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Why we long to possess things

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Fr. Luigi Maria Epicoco - published on 11/05/22

Putting God at the center means recovering the freedom that material things usually take away from us.

Today’s readings can be found here. Read Fr. Epicoco’s brief reflections on the daily Mass readings, Monday through Saturday, here. For Sunday Mass reading commentary from Fr. Rytel-Andrianik, see here.

“No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

I believe the root of this temptation is the need to possess things. In fact, possessions make us feel reassured and protected. They give us the illusion that we have life under control. Having money makes us feel like we’re the masters of our own lives, but this is only an illusion. 

Putting God at the center means recovering the freedom that material things usually take away from us. Of course, this is easy to say if we have food every day or if we have a blanket to cover us when we’re cold. But the poverty that the Gospel praises doesn’t consist in the lack of those things that give basic dignity to a person’s life. That kind of poverty is the absence of righteousness, not blessedness. The poverty to which the Gospel invites us consists in not making our lives dependent on the mere possession of things, and in understanding that what makes us happy is what we are and not what we have. 

Only the Lord reveals to us who we are, and helps us reconcile ourselves with the verb “to be.” Those who do not know who they are, and don’t accept themselves for what they are, look to the verb “to have” for the solution. “The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all these things and sneered at him. And he said to them, ‘You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God.’” Many things that we call fame and fortune here, before God are only masks and appearances that in the end leave only great unhappiness and emptiness.

Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel leave no room for misunderstanding. He is perfectly clear that attachment to material things and money is the greatest idolatry to which humanity can fall prey. 

I believe the root of this temptation is the need to possess things. In fact, possessions make us feel reassured and protected. They give us the illusion that we have life under control. Having money makes us feel like we’re the masters of our own lives, but this is only an illusion. 

Putting God at the center means recovering the freedom that material things usually take away from us.

Of course, this is easy to say if we have food every day or if we have a blanket to cover us when we’re cold. But the poverty that the Gospel praises doesn’t consist in the lack of those things that give basic dignity to a person’s life. That kind of poverty is the absence of righteousness, not blessedness. The poverty to which the Gospel invites us consists in not making our lives dependent on the mere possession of things, and in understanding that what makes us happy is what we are and not what we have. 

Only the Lord reveals to us who we are, and helps us reconcile ourselves with the verb “to be.” Those who do not know who they are, and don’t accept themselves for what they are, look to the verb “to have” for the solution.

“The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all these things and sneered at him. And he said to them, ‘You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God.’”

Many things that we call fame and fortune here, before God are only masks and appearances that in the end leave only great unhappiness and emptiness.

~

Father Luigi Maria Epicoco is a priest of the Aquila Diocese and teaches Philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University and at the ISSR ‘Fides et ratio,’ Aquila. He dedicates himself to preaching, especially for the formation of laity and religious, giving conferences, retreats and days of recollection. He has authored numerous books and articles. Since 2021, he has served as the Ecclesiastical Assistant in the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and columnist for the Vatican’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

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DiscipleshipGospelSpiritual Life
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