The scandal of the cross

August 28, 2010

The cross has always been a stumbling block for many. Many people love the glorious and risen Jesus. Many people speak of blessings and prosperity. But how many speak about the cross these days? Many will accuse us as the prophet of doom, those who talk about the cross. But talking about the cross is not being a prophet of doom. It is far from it. It is about power of Love.

I remember talking with a friend of mine who has been following christianity but not yet baptized. She told me that one of the most difficult thing for her to commit herself to christianity is the cross. Look at the saints and the sufferings they have to endure. Why would one ever want to suffer? Why should we carry the cross?

For many years, I too have been scared by the cross. I was scared by the sufferings I have to endure. When I look at the cross, I look at burden, at sufferings, and difficulties that we all have to endure. It is only until recently that the Lord helped me to look deeper into the cross.

I used to see only sufferings on the cross. But now, every time I see the cross, I see someone who is capable of loving in the midst of all the sufferings. Jesus loves and he never stops loving. Many of us would stop loving at the point of suffering. Many of us would start looking only at themselves when difficulties come. But Jesus did not. He continued to love even in the midst of sufferings.

Sufferings and difficulties seem inevitable. God did not send suffering contrary to what people might think. No he didn’t. But this is what he did. He sent his own son to redeem our sufferings. He sent Jesus that suffering might no longer be the last word, but rather a pathway to redemption. What kind of redemption is this?

We all, realize it or not, are fallen. There is a tendency inside us that rebels against God, and not only God, but also towards other people. Selfishness is not uncommon in todays world. People taking advantage of other people, lying, oppression, and many others are a few examples. One of the greatest temptation that we all have is even worse. Instead of loving, we use other people for our satisfaction. Pope John Paul II said that the opposite of Love is not hatred, but using others because of our self-love. In a word, we are all fallen.

What we are fallen from is what God plan for us. God made us into his own image, and that image is one of love. It is in loving other and being love by other that we will be happy. And yet our fallen nature draw us to “self”. We are drawn to be selfish. We are drawn to run away from God, and even blame God. In other word, we have lost of our true self who is able to love.

Now this is what Jesus told us, his new commandment. “to love as I have loved you”. It is in this love that we are being redeemed. By receiving God’s love, we are able to love the way God loves. And this is the way that God loves, by sacrificing himself totally for us.

Jesus did not die on the cross because God the Father wants it that way. We put Jesus on the Cross. If Jesus even lives today, he would be put on the cross by us. Because the way he lives, the way he acts, the way he speaks disturb us. His light and his righteousness would make us uncomfortable. His life when it is compared to us, reveals our darkness and weaknesses. When we live side by side with him, we know we are wrong and selfish, and we do not like it. And because we do not like it, we try to get rid of him. If you look at the secular world today, to talk about God might be an offense to some people.  This is what happen during Jesus time. Some people didn’t like him, up to the point they want to kill him. And they did.

Many of us would do the same. Many of us would kill that voice that tell us what is right and what is wrong. Many of us would “kill” people who seems to be righteous. And we did that by laughing at that person, make fun of him, get away from him, make his life difficult. We see that all the time in the office, political system, and even friendship.

And in all those situation, the Cross stands tall. In that cross, we see Jesus who continues to love. We see that man is capable of loving in the midst of suffering. In that cross, we see our true dignity as a human person. We realize that we are not created for hatred and selfishness. No, but rather we are created to be beautiful. In that cross, we see someone who is beautiful. Yes, he is beautiful because he is a loving person. He is capable of loving even his enemies! And in that cross, we see how Jesus continues to receive love from his father.

Many of us blame God the Father for sending Jesus to the cross. It is one of the most sad misunderstanding. If you are a father, you will understand. My baby just born two weeks ago. And I had time to reflect what it means to be a father. I began to know that I would never send my son to suffer. It would break my heart. But I know what I will send my son to, I will teach my son to love, and I will ask him to love others. That is what God the Father is asking of Jesus. God the Father simply asks Jesus to love. And Jesus said Yes, because he loves the Father. In my imperfection, I can see how hurting for the Father to see  Jesus on the Cross. You need only look at the sufferings of Mary at the foot of the Cross to see a heart of a parent. It hurts the Father so much. Now I understand what Jesus meant when he said, “when you see me, you see the Father”, and also “I only do what I learnt from my Father”. In Jesus, we see God the Father who loves us so much. It was not only Jesus who sacrificed Himself. It was God the Father who also sacrificed himself, his only son, his love. In that Cross, we see the agony of Jesus and also the Father. We see the suffering of Jesus as well as the Father. Jesus is able to sacrifice himself because that is what he sees from the Father. It is in this love that we are saved.

This is the message of Christianity, that there is someone who loves us no matter what. No matter what is your past, no matter what you did, there is someone who loves you that much. God is that one who loves us. He would do everything to love us. This is the message of great news, in fact for two thousand years the world has been talking about this Good News. The Good News that sets us free. It sets us free from all our sins and past, but also from our fear. Because we know that God loves us, what should we be afraid of? As St. John told us in his letter, “perfect love casts out any fear”. We have a future, and it is bright, because God loves us. Our future is in God, that will be one of happiness.

It is on that Cross that we see Jesus gave himself to us. One of the most touching scene was when one of the soldier pierced Jesus heart, and water and blood came out. For us catholics, that water and blood symbolizes the Sacrament of Baptism and Eucharist where graces flow.

In San Damiano Cross (figure), we see how that water and blood is offered to all people. God has given us his graces. Through Baptism, we have received the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God’s love. I remember I attended a talk from a Jesuit priest Father Robert Faricy, and he said that the Holy Spirit only does two things, he helps us to be able to receive more love, and to help us to love more. Through Cross, we have been redeemed from our sinfulness and selfishness. We have received graces that enables to love more, to love God and to love others. The Holy Spirit is that “inner law” that helps us to obey “love one another as I have loved you”.

I often stumbled at the word of Jesus when he said, “if you love me, you will obey my commandment”. It sounds so conditional. Recently, I read a commentary somewhere that helps me to open my eyes. It is not a condition, but rather a promise. Jesus promise us that if we love Jesus, we will be able to love the way he loves. That’s a great promise!

And implied in that promise is that we will be able to love in the midst of all the sufferings and difficulties that we experience in this life. We might experience that difficulties in our family, or our office. We might experience sufferings in our relationship. Jesus promise us that there is a redemption. That redemption helps us to be a more beautiful person, a person who is capable of loving, even in the midst of sufferings.

As I look at the cross, I no longer look at the sufferings that I have to endure, but I look at that person who loves me so much, that he is able to endure sufferings for me. That’s is a great hope and promise. Love redeems, Love saves. And blessed are we who believe in this Good News.

“Blessed is she who believes that the promise made her by Lord would be fulfilled” -St. Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist

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Who is your saint to imitate?

August 26, 2010

Mine is St. Joseph and St. Paul, with a special accompaniment of St. Francis of Asisi 🙂 St. Joseph for his fatherly love, St. Paul for his zeal in proclaiming the Gospel, and St. Francis for his total imitation of Christ. Who is yours?

BENEDICT XVI ENCOURAGES CHOOSING A SPECIAL SAINT

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 25, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is recommending that everyone have devotion to a particular saint — he suggested, for example, a namesake — so that the saint can offer closeness through intercession but also be a model to imitate.
The Pope said this today when he reflected during the general audience on the saints. He gave the audience address from Castel Gandolfo, where he is staying at the papal summer residence through next month.

The Holy Father said that it is important “to have ‘travel companions’ on the journey of our Christian life: I am thinking of a spiritual director, a confessor, persons with whom we can share the experience of faith, but I am also thinking of the Virgin Mary and of the saints.”

“Each one,” he said, “should have a saint that is familiar to him, to whom he feels close with prayer and intercession, but also to imitate him or her. Hence, I would like to invite you to know the saints better, beginning with the one whose name you bear, by reading his life, his writings. You can be certain that they will become good guides to love the Lord ever more and valid aids for your human and Christian growth.”

The Pontiff noted his own closeness to St. Joseph and St. Benedict, as his namesakes, but also reflected on a saint who has “become a good ‘travel companion’ in my life and my ministry”: St. Augustine.

full article: http://www.zenit.org/article-30155?l=english


Speaking in Tongues at Mass

August 25, 2010

from: http://www.zenit.org/rssenglish-30138

ROME, AUG. 24, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: What is allowed for regarding the (so-called) “speaking in tongues” during a Charismatic Mass? And what exactly is an acceptable type of such Mass? Recently, I attended a Mass where the priest added his own prayers during the elevation of the Eucharist (having said the formal prayers of consecration) and, with those present (who were, excluding myself, members of the parish charismatic prayer group), prayed in tongues during the Eucharistic Prayer and at other moments of the Mass. There were various other obvious illicit moments during the Mass and perhaps afterward as well (e.g., layperson anointing with some type of oil), but I’m particularly curious about the “tongues.” As far as I can deduce, this is not allowed, but it’s exceedingly difficult to find anything to the contrary aside from mere opinions. — P.H., Limerick, Ireland

A: There are practically no universal guidelines on this subject, except of course the general norms that prohibit adding anything whatsoever to officially prescribed texts.

Although some individual bishops have published norms for their dioceses, as far as I know the most complete treatment of this subject is that published by the Brazilian bishops’ conference. The document, “Pastoral Orientation Regarding the Catholic Charismatic Renewal,” was issued in November 1994. It can be accessed in the Portuguese original at the bishops’ Web site:www.cnbb.com.br.

It must be noted that the Brazilian bishops have a generally positive view of the Charismatic Renewal, and a significant number participate in charismatic Masses. The renewal is considered as being especially attuned and appealing to a wide swath of Brazilian society and is credited as helping to stem the hemorrhaging of Catholics toward Pentecostal sects.

Therefore, the norms issued by the bishops should be seen as genuine orientations to help the Catholic Charismatic Renewal achieve its full potential as an integral portion of the wider Catholic community. They should not be seen as condemnation of aberrations and abuses.

In dealing with liturgy (Nos. 38-44), the bishops’ document recommends that the members of the renewal receive an adequate liturgical formation. It reminds them that the liturgy is governed by precise rules and nothing external should be introduced (No. 40). No. 41 has precise indications:

“In the celebration of Holy Mass the words of the institution must not be stressed in an inadequate fashion. Nor must the Eucharistic Prayer be interrupted by moments of praise for Christ’s Eucharistic presence by means of applause, cheers, processions, hymns of Eucharistic praise or any other manifestations that exalt in this way the Real Presence and end up emptying out the various dimensions of the Eucharistic celebration.”

In No. 42 the bishops indicate that music and gestures should be appropriate to the moment of the celebration and follow the liturgical norms. A clear distinction should be made between liturgical hymns and other religious songs that are reserved to prayer meetings. Hymns should preferably be chosen from an official repertoire of liturgical songs.

Finally, the bishops say that Charismatic Renewal meetings should not be scheduled to coincide with regular Masses and other gatherings of the whole ecclesial community.

When referring to speaking in tongues (No. 62), the document offers the following clarifications:

“Speaking or praying in tongues: The object or destination of praying in tongues is God himself, being the attitude of a person absorbed in a particular conversation with God. The object or destination of speaking in tongues is the community. The Apostle Paul teaches, ‘When I am in the presence of the community I would rather say five words that mean something than ten thousand words in a tongue’ (1 Corinthians 14:19). Since in practice it is difficult to distinguish between the inspirations of the Holy Spirit and the instigations of the group leader, there should never be a call encouraging praying in tongues, and speaking in tongues should not take place unless there is also an interpreter.”

I think that these wise counsels and norms from the Brazilian bishops show that it is not in conformity with the authentic charism of the Catholic Charismatic renewal to speak in tongues during Mass.


Examen, co-dependency relationship, and the twelve steps for recovery

August 13, 2010

I was reading a book that I bought titled “Sleeping with Bread”. It’s about doing the daily examen of the Ignatian spirituality. There was one sharing from Sheila (one of the authors) that caught my attention. She shared how she recovers from co-dependent relationship and how the examen help her. I was wondering what co-dependent relationship is. Well, you can do a google and type “co-dependency”. This is some extract from one website:

It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive.

From this website, it seems that the cause is dysfunctional family. And how does these people behave?

Co-dependents have low self-esteem and look for anything outside of themselves to make them feel better. They find it hard to “be themselves.” […]

They have good intentions. They try to take care of a person who is experiencing difficulty, but the caretaking becomes compulsive and defeating. Co-dependents often take on a martyr’s role and become “benefactors” to an individual in need. […]

The problem is that these repeated rescue attempts allow the needy individual to continue on a destructive course and to become even more dependent on the unhealthy caretaking of the “benefactor.” As this reliance increases, the co-dependent develops a sense of reward and satisfaction from “being needed.” When the caretaking becomes compulsive, the co-dependent feels choiceless and helpless in the relationship, but is unable to break away from the cycle of behavior that causes it. Co-dependents view themselves as victims and are attracted to that same weakness in the love and friendship relationships.

And from another site, these are the characteristic of co-dependent people:

Following is a commonly used list of characteristics of codependency.

  1. My good feelings about who I am stem from being liked by you
  2. My good feelings about who I am stem from receiving approval from you
  3. Your struggle affects my serenity. My mental attention focuses on solving your problems/relieving your pain
  4. My mental attention is focused on you
  5. My mental attention is focused on protecting you
  6. My mental attention is focused on manipulating you to do it my way
  7. My self-esteem is bolstered by solving your problems
  8. My self-esteem is bolstered by relieving your pain
  9. My own hobbies/interests are put to one side. My time is spent sharing your hobbies/interests
  10. Your clothing and personal appearance are dictated by my desires and I feel you are a reflection of me
  11. Your behaviour is dictated by my desires and I feel you are a reflection of me
  12. I am not aware of how I feel. I am aware of how you feel.
  13. I am not aware of what I want – I ask what you want. I am not aware – I assume
  14. The dreams I have for my future are linked to you
  15. My fear of rejection determines what I say or do
  16. My fear of your anger determines what I say or do
  17. I use giving as a way of feeling safe in our relationship
  18. My social circle diminishes as I involve myself with you
  19. I put my values aside in order to connect with you
  20. I value your opinion and way of doing things more than my own
  21. The quality of my life is in relation to the quality of yours

How is it treated?

Because co-dependency is usually rooted in a person’s childhood, treatment often involves exploration into early childhood issues and their relationship to current destructive behavior patterns. Treatment includes education, experiential groups, and individual and group therapy through which co-dependents rediscover themselves and identify self-defeating behavior patterns. Treatment also focuses on helping patients getting in touch with feelings that have been buried during childhood and on reconstructing family dynamics. The goal is to allow them to experience their full range of feelings again.

At this point, I recalled from the book that the twelve steps program which is used in many recovery groups, is based on Ignatian examen. It helps people to “acknowledge” and so called to “share” it with others. This is the twelve steps that is used in the Co-dependency Anonymous.

The Twelve Steps of Co-Dependents Anonymous

  1. We admitted we were powerless over others – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God as we understood God.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other codependents, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The difficulty is that most of these people also give a symptom of denial. And so the twelve steps program helps them to really admit what is lacking, and seek for help, and by sharing it with others who have the same problem. The Ignatian examen helps us to get in touch with our feelings, admit it, know more about ourselves and our weaknesses honestly, and ask for God’s grace.


How to possess a rich Spirit amid real Poverty

August 7, 2010

Taken from chapter 16 of Introduction to Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales.

BUT if you are really poor, my daughter, for God’s Sake be so in spirit; make a virtue of necessity, and turn that precious stone poverty194to its true value. The brilliancy thereof is not perceived in this world, but nevertheless it is very great.

Patience then! you are in good company. Our Dear Lord, Our Lady, the Apostles, numberless Saints, both men and women, were poor, and although they might have been rich, disdained to be so. How many great ones of this world have gone through many difficulties to seek holy poverty amid hospitals and cloisters! What pains they took to find it, let S. Alexis, S. Paula, S. Paulinus, S. Angela, and many another witness; whereas to you, my child, it has come unasked—you have met poverty without seeking it—do you then embrace it as the beloved friend of Jesus Christ, Who was born, lived and died in poverty, and cherished it all His Life.

There are two great privileges connected with your poverty, through which you may acquire great merit. First, it is not your own choice, but God’s Will alone, which has made you poor. Now, whatever we accept simply because it is God’s Will is acceptable in His Sight, so long as we accept it heartily and out of love:—the less of self the more of God,—and a singlehearted acceptance of God’s Will purifies any suffering very greatly.

The second privilege is, that this poverty is 195so very poor. There is a be-praised, caressed poverty, so petted and cared for, that it can hardly be called poor like the despised, contemned, neglected poverty which also exists. Now, most secular poverty is of this last kind, for those who are involuntarily poor, and cannot help themselves, are not much thought of, and for that very reason their poverty is poorer than that of religious, although religious poverty has a very special and excellent grace, through the intention and the vow by which it is accepted.

Do not complain then of your poverty, my daughter,—we only complain of that which is unwelcome, and if poverty is unwelcome to you, you are no longer poor in spirit. Do not fret under such assistance as is needful; therein lies one great grace of poverty. It were overambitious to aim at being poor without suffering any inconvenience, in other words, to have the credit of poverty and the convenience of riches.

Do not be ashamed of being poor, or of asking alms. Receive what is given you with humility, and accept a refusal meekly. Frequently call to mind Our Lady’s journey into Egypt with her Holy Child, and of all the poverty, contempt and suffering they endured. If you follow their example you will indeed be rich amid your poverty.


How to exercise real Poverty, although actually Rich

August 7, 2010

Taken from chapter 15 of Introduction of Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales.

THE painter Parrhasius drew an ingenious and imaginative representation of the 189Athenians, ascribing sundry opposite qualities to them, calling them at once capricious, irascible, unjust, inconstant, courteous, merciful, compassionate, haughty, vain-glorious, humble, boastful, and cowardly;—and for my part, dear daughter, I would fain see united in your heart both riches and poverty, a great care and a great contempt for temporal things.

Do you take much greater pains than is the wont of worldly men to make your riches useful and fruitful? Are not the gardeners of a prince more diligent in cultivating and beautifying the royal gardens than if they were their own? Wherefore? Surely because these gardens are the king’s, to whom his gardeners would fain render an acceptable service. My child, our possessions are not ours,—God has given them to us to cultivate, that we may make them fruitful and profitable in His Service, and so doing we shall please Him. And this we must do more earnestly than worldly men, for they look carefully after their property out of self-love, and we must work for the love of God. Now self-love is a restless, anxious, over-eager love, and so the work done on its behalf is troubled, vexatious, and unsatisfactory;—whereas the love of God is calm, peaceful, and tranquil, and so the work done for its sake, even in worldly things, is gentle, trustful, and quiet. Let us take such 190a quiet care to preserve, and even when practicable to increase, our temporal goods, according to the duties of our position,—this is acceptable to God for His Love’s Sake.

But beware that you be not deceived by self-love, for sometimes it counterfeits the Love of God so cleverly that you may mistake one for the other. To avoid this, and to prevent a due care for your temporal interests from degenerating into avarice, it is needful often to practise a real poverty amid the riches with which God has endowed you.

To this end always dispose of a part of your means by giving them heartily to the poor; you impoverish yourself by whatever you give away. It is true that God will restore it to you, not only in the next world, but in this, for nothing brings so much temporal prosperity as free almsgiving, but meanwhile, you are sensibly poorer for what you give. Truly that is a holy and rich poverty which results from almsgiving.

Love the poor and poverty,—this love will make you truly poor, since, as Holy Scripture says, we become like to that we love. 100100 “Their abominations were according as they loved.” Hosea ix. 10. Love makes lovers equal. “Who is weak and I am not weak?” 101101 2 Cor. xi. 29. says St. Paul? He might have said, Who is poor and I am not poor? for it was 191love which made him like to those he loved; and so, if you love the poor, you will indeed share their poverty, and be poor like them.

And if you love the poor, seek them out, take pleasure in bringing them to your home, and in going to theirs, talk freely with them, and be ready to meet them, whether in Church or elsewhere. Let your tongue be poor with them in converse, but let your hands be rich to distribute out of your abundance. Are you prepared to go yet further, my child? not to stop at being poor like the poor, but even poorer still? The servant is not so great as his lord; do you be the servant of the poor, tend their sickbed with your own hands, be their cook, their needlewoman. O my daughter, such servitude is more glorious than royalty! How touchingly S. Louis, one of the greatest of kings, fulfilled this duty; serving the poor in their own houses, and daily causing three to eat at his own table, often himself eating the remains of their food in his loving humility. In his frequent visits to the hospitals he would select those afflicted with the most loathsome diseases, ulcers, cancer, and the like; and these he would tend, kneeling down and bare-headed, beholding the Saviour of the world in them, and cherishing them with all the tenderness of a mother’s love. Saint Elizabeth of Hungary 192used to mix freely with the poor, and liked to dress in their homely garments amid her gay ladies. Surely these royal personages were poor amid their riches and rich in poverty.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. In the Day of Judgment the King of prince and peasant will say to them, “I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat, I was naked, and ye clothed Me; come, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” 102102 S. Matt. xxv. 34-36.

Everybody finds themselves sometimes deficient in what they need, and put to inconvenience. A guest whom we would fain receive honorably arrives, and we cannot entertain him as we would; we want our costly apparel in one place, and it all happens to be somewhere else: all the wine in our cellar suddenly turns sour: we find ourselves accidentally in some country place where everything is wanting, room, bed, food, attendance: in short, the richest people may easily be without something they want, and that is practically to suffer poverty. Accept such occurrences cheerfully, rejoice in them, bear them willingly.

Again, if you are impoverished much or little by unforeseen events, such as storm, flood, fire, drought, theft, or lawsuit; then is the real time 193to practise poverty, accepting the loss quietly, and adapting yourself patiently to your altered circumstances. Esau and Jacob both came to their father with hairy hands, 103103 Gen. xxvii. but the hair on Jacob’s hands did not grow from his skin, and could be torn off without pain; while that on Esau’s hands being the natural growth of his skin, he would have cried out and resisted if any one had torn it off. So if our possessions are very close to our heart, and storm or thief tear them away, we shall break forth in impatient murmurs and lamentations. But if we only cleave to them with that solicitude which God wills us to have, and not with our whole heart, we shall see them rent away without losing our sense of calmness. This is just the difference between the clothing of men and beasts; the beast’s clothing grows on its flesh, and man’s is only laid on so that it may be laid aside at will.


On Poverty of Spirit amid Riches

August 7, 2010

Taken from chapter 14 of Introduction to Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales.

“BLESSED are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God;” 9797 S. Matt. v. 3. and if so, woe be to the rich in spirit, for theirs must be the bitterness of hell. By rich in spirit I mean him whose riches engross his mind, or whose mind is buried in his riches. He is poor in spirit whose heart is not filled with the love of riches, whose mind is not set upon them. The halcyon builds its nest like a ball, and leaving but one little aperture in the upper part, launches it on the sea, so secure and impenetrable, that the waves carry it along without any water getting in, and it floats on the sea, superior, so to say, to the waves. And this, my child, is what your heart should be—open only to heaven, impenetrable to riches and earthly treasures. If you have them, keep your heart from attaching itself to them; let it maintain a higher level, and amidst riches be as though you had none,—superior to them. Do not let that mind which is the likeness of God cleave to mere earthly goods; let it always be raised above them, not sunk in them.

There is a wide difference between having poison and being poisoned. All apothecaries 186have poisons ready for special uses, but they are not consequently poisoned, because the poison is only in their shop, not in themselves; and so you may possess riches without being poisoned by them, so long as they are in your house or purse only, and not in your heart. It is the Christian’s privilege to be rich in material things, and poor in attachment to them, thereby having the use of riches in this world and the merit of poverty in the next.

Of a truth, my daughter, no one will ever own themselves to be avaricious;—every one denies this contemptible vice:—men excuse themselves on the plea of providing for their children, or plead the duty of prudent forethought:—they never have too much, there is always some good reason for accumulating more; and even the most avaricious of men not only do not own to being such, but sincerely believe that they are not; and that because avarice is as a strong fever which is all the less felt as it rages most fiercely. Moses saw that sacred fire which burnt the bush without consuming it, 9898 Exod. iii. 2. but the profane fire of avarice acts precisely the other way,—it consumes the miser, but without burning, for, amid its most intense heat, he believes himself to be deliciously cool, and imagines his insatiable thirst to be merely natural and right.187

If you long earnestly, anxiously, and persistently after what you do not possess, it is all very well to say that you do not wish to get it unfairly, but you are all the time guilty of avarice. He who longs eagerly and anxiously to drink, though it may be water only, thereby indicates that he is feverish. I hardly think we can say that it is lawful to wish lawfully to possess that which is another’s:—so doing we surely wish our own gain at the expense of that other? and he who possesses anything lawfully, surely has more right to possess it, than we to obtain it? Why should we desire that which is his? Even were the wish lawful, it is not charitable, for we should not like other men to desire what we possess, however lawfully. This was Ahab’s sin when he sought to acquire Naboth’s vineyard by lawful purchase, when Naboth lawfully desired to keep it himself;—he coveted it eagerly, continually, and anxiously, and so doing he displeased God. 9999 I Kings xxi.

Do not allow yourself to wish for that which is your neighbour’s until he wishes to part with it,—then his wish will altogether justify yours,—and I am quite willing that you should add to your means and possessions, provided it be not merely with strict justice, but kindly and charitably done. 188If you cleave closely to your possessions, and are cumbered with them, setting your heart and thoughts upon them, and restlessly anxious lest you should suffer loss, then, believe me, you are still somewhat feverish;—for fever patients drink the water we give them with an eagerness and satisfaction not common to those who are well.

It is not possible to take great pleasure in anything without becoming attached to it. If you lose property, and find yourself grievously afflicted at the loss, you may be sure that you were warmly attached to it;—there is no surer proof of affection for the thing lost than our sorrow at its loss.

Therefore, do not fix your longings on anything which you do not possess; do not let your heart rest in that which you have; do not grieve overmuch at the losses which may happen to you;—and then you may reasonably believe that although rich in fact, you are not so in affection, but that you are poor in spirit, and therefore blessed, for the Kingdom of Heaven is yours.