Presence of God – O Jesus, for my sake You embraced a life of extreme poverty; make me realize the great value of this virtue.
One day a scribe approached Jesus and said to Him, “Master, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou shalt go.’ Jesus answered him, ‘The foxes have their holes, and the birds of the air have their nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8:19-20).
To one who is willing to follow Him, Jesus immediately presents a picture of His life, a life that is extremely poor and without the smallest comfort. Anyone who has not the courage to share, at least to a certain degree, His earthly poverty will have no part in His eternal wealth. No one can serve two masters at the same time: God and riches. “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). If you are attached to wealth, ease and material comfort, in vain will you try to give your whole heart to God; it will always be the slave of worldly goods. That is why the rich young man, after asking what he should do to obtain eternal life, went away sadly when Jesus answered, “Go, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor,” for “he had great possessions.” He was a good young man; from his youth he had kept the commandments and he sincerely longed for eternal life, so much so that, “Jesus looking on him, loved him” (Mark 10:21-22). And yet, attachment to his possessions kept him from following Jesus. This is the story of many souls who, after having accomplished much in the service of God, stop and turn back because they lack the courage to detach themselves from the goods of earth. In commenting on this fact and speaking to His disciples, Jesus said, “How hard it is for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:24-25). Reflect that in these words Jesus was speaking not only of the man who is “rich” because he has great possessions but more especially of the one who is “rich” because he is attached to what he possesses.
“O gentle Lord Jesus Christ, most rich in love, experience has taught me that there is nothing in life more wearisome than to burn with earthly desires, for the love of riches is an insatiable hunger which so tortures the soul by the ardor of desire that it does not find solace even when it obtains what it covets. The acquisition of wealth causes great fatigue; the possession of it brings great fear; its loss occasions great sorrow.
“One who loves riches cannot love You, O Lord, but perishes with the things that are perishable, and he who relies on them with affection, vanishes with them in sadness. He who finds them, loses his peace; when he lies awake at night, he tries to think of ways to add to them; if he sleeps, he dreams of thieves; during the day he is anxious and troubled; at night his fears increase, and thus he is always miserable” (Ven. Raymond Jourdain [14th century abbot of Celles]).
How unfortunate I should be, O Lord, if the love of worldly things prevented me from following you closely! Oh! how little does my life resemble Yours! What a difference in our tastes and desires! You, the King of heaven and earth, could have surrounded Yourself with grandeur, since all riches were created by You. You could have had many servants to carry out Your orders, yet You wanted none of these; instead You chose, for the first place of Your stay on earth, a stable, and for the last, a hard cross. And I, who am but dust and ashes, with no right to possess anything, because I have nothing of myself and receive everything from Your generosity, would I claim a life of comfort, filled with so many desires for material well-being?
O Lord, do not permit the love of temporal goods to be an obstacle, to become a wall between You and me. Union of love demands resemblance; love either finds two beings similar or makes them so. I love You, O Lord, but my love is still weak; strengthen it, so that it may be able to destroy every attachment which hinders me from following You closely and becoming like You.
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Art for this post on evangelical poverty: Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, Heinrich Hoffmann, 1 June 1889, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.