The newspapers of 20th June 2006 report that Bill Gates has handed over charge of his company to someone else so that he can reorder his priorities. He is interested in putting his genius into his charities, to help find remedies to illnesses that beset the poor in developing countries.
Perhaps most of us may not have huge investments to put into charitable funds to help the poor. Maybe we are too caught up in supporting our families or paying off mortgages. But all of us when reading the Bible are challenged to reorder our priorities.
Our priorities flow from the way we see ourselves and our role in society. Are we here just to manage our own lives, educate our children and have a secure future? Has God given us a Mission in life? What is our Mission statement?
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people." Luke 4:18 sums up the mission statement of Jesus. The words highlighted are: Spirit, chosen, sent, captives, blind and oppressed.
ALL Christians who are baptized and confirmed, receive this Mission from Jesus. It is only in the power of the Holy Spirit, that we can live this calling. All Christians are called to be disciples of Jesus, not only Religious who are " set free" by the Holy Spirit and gifted with the vows of evangelical poverty, consecrated chastity and serving obedience, in order to fulfil this mission. Married people with children are also called and empowered by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the Mission of Jesus today.
Many of our young people are earning large amounts of money, with all sorts of perks. They also have to work long hours to earn it. Maybe in the process, they lose their sense of values.
Jesus says to the rich young man who obeyed all the commandments: "If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me." (Mt 19:21) "I assure you: it will be very hard for rich people to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I repeat : It is much harder for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. When the disciples heard this they were completely amazed. 'Who then can be saved?' they asked. Jesus looked straight at them and answered: 'This is impossible for human beings, but for God everything is possible.'
Many of us who are Religious today are not poor at all. In fact we live in huge buildings, have large financial securities to ensure that we will be looked after in our old age or sickness. Married people have to worry about feeding, clothing and providing for their children or looking after the older members of their families. Most Religious leave fund raising for formation programs and looking after their aged and sick members to Superiors. How much of our work is directed to the poor?
Mother Teresa's Sisters, the Missionaries of Charity, in their Divine Praises, after Benediction recite: "Blessed be Jesus in the poorest of the poor" after "Blessed be Jesus in the most holy sacrament of the altar".
It struck me this morning that the Holy Spirit is calling all people, including married people with children, for whom I write this column in "Holy Spirit Interactive" to see poverty as a constitutive part of discipleship. It means completely trusting in God to provide them with all they need to live and to bring up their children, each day. This is not just material things but also and especially the love and Gospel values in which they bring up their children to be disciples.
My mind goes back to 1972 September, when I was returning to India from New York, where I had gone to study. I wanted to bring back Marriage Encounter to India and a young couple, Dick and Patricia Alexandro aged 29 and 27, with 3 small sons who were 6,4 and 6 months, felt called by God to come to India to help me start this apostolate. I was apprehensive about their coming to Bangalore where I was posted because I did not know where they would stay or how they would manage to live. I was worried lest their children got sick. At that point they assured me that: God was calling them to this mission. He would provide for them. I did not have to worry. Married people told a Religious this. He did provide. He kept on providing and we were able to begin and spread.
For married people to choose to embrace poverty, to trust in Providence, to joyfully follow Jesus everyday as his disciples, is really the call of the Gospel. May the Lord raise up many Alexandros today to bear witness to Jesus and his Gospel !!
I would like to know what readers of this article think about this message? In these days when vocations to Priesthood and Religious life are becoming more scarce, particularly in the so-called first and second world countries, perhaps you married people are the ones today who are particularly called to bear witness to Jesus.
Perhaps we can examine how much time and effort we spend on various aspects of our life. That tells us about priorities. When we die, in the particular judgment, we will be examined on this question: When I was hungry did you give me to eat? We will not be asked how many gold medals or sports trophies our children won. We will be examined on how we have been instrumental in building the Kingdom of God rather than our own little kingdoms. Perhaps this is a wake-up call to all of us, married and single, lay or religious. God can provide for us much more than we can provide for ourselves and our children. Right now He is investing in us and will require an account of our stewardship. Do we need to reorder our priorities with regard to how we spend our time, money and talents?