“The more you have, the more you are occupied, the less you give. But the less you have the more free you are. Poverty for us is a freedom. It is not mortification, a penance.” Mother Teresa
Just over a month ago, I had no idea that I needed to learn this beautiful lesson, but am very thankful that our Lord chose to lovingly make me realize that I did. Mid July, I was blissfully unaware that I would need to be packing my things within the next month to move to a new place. I reflect back on the meditations and prayers that our Lord used to speak to me at that time and realize how timely they were. I remember sitting in my parent’s home over the holidays reading Luke 18: 18-30 where the rich ruler approaches Jesus asking him “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”. After Jesus listed off the commandments and heard from the rich ruler that he followed them since he was a young boy, Jesus replied “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But the rich ruler went away sad for he had great wealth. His sadness for not being able to follow Jesus resonated with me that day and I sat asking myself what it was that I was holding onto that prevented me from following Christ.
A month later, after a week filled with packing, moving, purging, unpacking and cleaning, I think I have found part of my answer. I have realized how many useless material possessions a person can accumulate over just a short amount of time. These possessions may seem harmless at first glance as they lay tucked away in a dusty corner, but as time came to move them or get rid of them, I realized that my time spent doing so prevented me from serving those who were in need of my help. As an effect this caused me to feel restless and agitated. In the end, I was taught something about the freedom of poverty and what it means to have been given a heart made for Charity.
Our hearts are made by God and for God (CCC I, 27). If our hearts are by God and for God, then we are justified in saying that our hearts are made for love (Charity), and to live a life without Charity is to live opposed to the way God made us. This is enough to make one restless for as St. Augustine has said “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you”. I can imagine what it was like for the rich man to walk away from Christ with a saddened heart realizing that he was more concerned about earthly riches than following the will of Christ.
In light of this, it is quite clear that poverty is a gift. Poverty frees a person from any tie that would prevent him from following Christ. Poverty frees us from selfishness and leads us open to service. The more the “self” is replaced by Charity the more we are free to give our hearts completely to God. The more we give our hearts completely to God, the more we are at peace.