Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Paul is arguably the most important theologian that the Church has ever had. His writings make up two thirds of the New Testament; the way he interpreted the life of Jesus continues to guide the Church’s reflections today. With the commentaries that mine his writings for insights, we often miss who the man was behind the reflection, and how his lifestyle is instructive to us as disciples today.
Paul likely was a tentmaker to support himself financially as he worked with Christian communities in the Mediterranean area. He did not charge the Churches for his work with them; instead, he sought to give excess of his earnings for needs of the poor in the city where he was staying. He traveled frequently, and was not able to accrue much in material possessions over the course of his life.
Material simplicity for Paul was a spiritual practice, as he says, “In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” His simplicity brought him into deeper relationship and reliance upon God, and his generosity brought him closer to the poor in his midst. We as the Church today need to pray continually for freedom. We need to pray for freedom from materialism, and for greater generosity with the fruits of our labors.
The needs of the Church and the world are pressing. In the recent encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis writes: “But we should be particularly indignant at the enormous inequalities in our midst, . . . We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, . . .” (no. 90). As we celebrate Pentecost this coming Sunday, let us pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance on how to live a life that embodies the teaching of Jesus, “ it is more blessed to give than to receive.”
How am I invited into a materially simple life? What has been a challenge with this commitment?