John the Baptizer began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him…”Bear fruits in keeping with repentance!” And the crowds were questioning him, saying, “Then what shall we do?” And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” (Luke 3:7-11 passim).
Lent is a time of repentance, of turning to God or turning back to God if we found him once and then wandered away. The three important pathways are: prayer, self-denial and works of mercy. We could also say: spending time with God, giving to others some of the things we’re attached to, and helping our fellow human beings.
These three are not interchangeable. A person can’t say “I do a whole lot of retreat work, so I am at peace with not contributing financially to the Church” or “I write a nice check every month, I shouldn’t be expected to actually help in the kitchen.” It takes three legs to hold up a stool. One or even two legs means the stool is no good at all.
As we move through this Lenten period, we as the most materially-blessed people in the world would do well to take account of what we have, which means beginning to strategize how to give it away to those in need.
In the average home in America, there are 300,000 items, which helps explain the fact that 10% of us rent offsite storage and ¼ of people with two car garages do not have room to park their cars. The average American family spends $1700 a year on clothes and discards 65 pounds of clothing in the same period. Each year, Americans spend $1.2 trillion on non-essential goods (things they don’t need). And the average adult, during her lifetime, will spend a total of 153 days searching for misplaced items: an average of 9 a day. (www.becomingminimalist.com/clutter-stats).
During Hurricane Harvey, we realized how much stuff we’ve got. And many of us discovered how much we can do without. The Jesus issue here is sharing our bounty with others. Hoarding unused clothing, furniture and toys while others are in need is certainly evil and, if we’re aware of it, sinful.
As many can testify, it can be an excruciating experience for our loved ones to spend days and weeks poring through our mountains of possessions when we die. Often the most important, precious or valuable things we own are overlooked or discarded in the immense challenge of sorting, hauling, selling the accumulated goods of a lifetime.
You can’t take it with you. Stop pretending that you can.