Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Whatever you have

At once they left their nets and followed him.
Andrew and Peter’s response to the call of Jesus, Mt 4:20

Below is a snippet from a homily by St. Gregory the Great on this feast of St. Andrew the apostle. It was read this morning in the Archabbey Church during Vigils, and I thought it might be worth sharing. It is a good meditation for Christians at any time, but particularly during this season of Advent, which calls us to empty ourselves and long for the coming of the One who alone sustains and fills us.

As you read it, I invite you to meditate on possessions not only in terms of material goods, but the less tangible yet very real attitudes, desires, and expectations that often keep us from following Christ. These might include bearing a grudge, needing approval, jealousy, desiring to have the last word or to have things our way, guarding time to follow our own pursuits, or possibly that nagging and genuine tug of guilt associated with unacknowledged wrongdoing. The very last line of the meditation is what really caught my ear. What is it we possess and must let go to gain Christ?

Perhaps someone might say: “How much did these two fishermen [Andrew and Peter] give up at the Lord’s bidding? They had practically nothing!” That may be so, but what counts is motive rather than wealth. Those who keep nothing back for themselves give up much; those who abandon all they have, even if it is very little, give up a great deal.

We, on the other hand, are possessive about the things we have and covetously try to obtain those we do not have. Peter and Andrew gave up a great deal because they gave up even the desire to possess anything. So let none of us who see other people giving up great possessions say to ourselves: “I would like to imitate them, but I have nothing to give up.”

You give up much if you give up the desire to possess. The Lord looks at your heart, not your fortune; he considers the love that prompts the offering, not its amount. Peter and Andrew gave their nets and boats to purchase the eternal life of the angels. The real value of that is beyond price, but for you its price is just what you possess.

For Zacchaeus it was worth half his fortune. For Peter and Andrew it was worth the value of their nets and boat; for the widow it cost two small coins; another may buy it with a cup of cold water.

The kingdom of God costs whatever you have.

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