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September 2004

None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. (Luke 14:33)

Such a demanding and radical request is shocking. It is not exclusively for a specific category of people, like missionaries or monks and nuns who must be free to go and proclaim the Gospel everywhere. Nor does it apply to exceptional times, like moments of persecution when disciples are asked not only to leave their goods but to give up their very lives in order to remain faithful to God. Jesus is addressing these words to everyone. Therefore we can all respond.

It's one of the conditions for following Jesus, a condition Luke insists on in the Gospel: 'Sell your possessions, and give alms.... For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also'. (Luke 12:33-34) 'No slave can serve two masters ... You cannot serve God and wealth'. (Luke 16:13) 'How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!' (Luke 18:24)

None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

Why does Jesus insist so much on detachment from goods, to the point of making it an indispensable condition for following him?

Because our first real and true treasure in life is him! And so he invites us to put aside all those idols - those ,possessions' that can take God's place in our hearts.

He wants us to be free, with our souls unencumbered by any attachment or worry so that we really can love him with all our heart, mind and strength. Material goods are necessary in life but they must be used with the greatest detachment. We must be ready to put aside anything if it should take first place in our heart. For those who follow Jesus, there is no room for avarice, the enjoyment of riches, the unrestrained pursuit of comforts and security.

He asks us to renounce possessions also because he wants us to be open to others, to accept and love our neighbours as ourselves: renouncing our goods is to the advantage of our neighbour. There is no place in the disciple of Jesus for greed and hard heartedness towards the poor.

None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

How can we live this Word of Life?

The simplest way to renounce is to give.

To give to God by loving him, by offering him our lives so that he may use them as he wishes, being ready to do his will always.

And to show him our love, let's love our brothers and sisters, ready to risk everything. Though we may not think so, we have many riches to share: we have affection to give, goodwill to express, joy to communicate; we can put our time at the disposal of others, we can pray for them, share our spiritual riches; at times we have other things - books, clothes, cars, money... Let's give without calculating too much: 'I might need it sometime...' Everything could be useful, but if we give in to these ideas many attachments will creep in to our hearts and many more 'needs' will be created. No, let's try to keep only what is necessary. Let's be careful not to lose Jesus for a sum of money we have set aside, for something we can do without.

None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

For each 'all' that we lose or give up there is an infinitely more precious 'all' that we find. We are the ones who gain, let's believe it, because in place of the little or much that we give, we receive the fullness of joy and union with God. We become genuine disciples.

If just giving a glass of water will be rewarded, what will be the reward for those who give all they can for God in their brother or sister?

This is confirmed by one of the many stories that are continually reported to me by those who live the 'Word of Life' with us.

In Caracas (Venezuela) the father of a family lost his job. Two weeks later he fell seriously ill. At the very same time his car was stolen. It was an extremely tough moment for him and his family. They soon realized that they would have to leave their flat because they could no longer pay the rent.

In the meantime a friend of theirs who was not well-off himself felt prompted to respond more completely to God's love and to live the Word of Life following the example of the early Christians who put everything in common.

That same evening he confided this desire to his wife and they decided together to offer part of their house to the jobless man's family. They felt that their own poverty could not justify leaving their friends on the street. But their house was still unfinished...

On the following day a sum of money unexpectedly arrived which enabled them to finish building the house.

Chiara Lubich

 

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The Word of Life is published by the Focolare Movement