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July 2009

(Original Version March 1979, also August 1998)

Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. (Luke 12:33)

Perhaps you are young, demanding a life with an ideal, totally committed, radical? Listen to Jesus. No one in the world demands so much of you. This is an opportunity to prove your faith, your generosity, your heroism.

Perhaps you are older, longing for a way of life that is serious, committed, yet well-founded? Or perhaps you are in later life, wanting to live your last years trusting yourself to someone who will not let you down, without constant worries to wear you out? This word of Jesus is for you too.

In fact it comes at the end of a series of exhortations where Jesus asks you not to worry about what you will eat or what you will wear, but to act as the birds of the air which do not sow, and the lilies of the field which do not spin. You must therefore banish from your heart all cares for the things of this earth. The Father, who loves you more than the birds and the flowers, will take care of you himself.

This is why Jesus says to you:

Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

The Gospel, in its entirety and in each of words, is a total demand to human beings for all they are and all they have. God did not ask so much before the coming of Christ. In the Old Testament earthly riches were seen as a God-given good, a blessing. Almsgiving to the needy was demanded, but as a means to earn the favour of the Almighty. In the Jewish faith later on, the idea of a reward in the next life became more common. A king, when reprimanded for having squandered his goods, once replied, ‘My ancestors accumulated treasures for this life, but I have accumulated treasures for the next …’

Now, the originality of Jesus’ words lies in the fact that he demands a total gift from you, he demands your all. He wants you to be his child, care-free and without worries in this world, totally reliant on him.

He knows that earthly wealth is a tremendous obstacle for you, because it fills your heart, while he wants that space completely for himself. This is why he urges:

Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

If you cannot get rid of your material goods because other people are involved or because your position in life requires that you keep up a certain standard, you must at least detach yourself from them spiritually, being no more than their administrator. In this way, in dealing with your wealth you will be able to love others and, administering it on their behalf, you will accumulate a treasure that no moth can destroy, nor thieves take away.

But are you sure you have to keep everything? Listen to God’s voice within; and if you cannot decide what to do, seek someone’s advice. You’ll see how many unnecessary things you have. Don’t keep them. Give. Give to those who are without. Put the words of Jesus into practice, ‘Sell... and give.’ If you do, you will fill up purses that do not grow old.

If you live in the world it is only natural that you take an interest in money and other material things. But God wants us to use these things, not be used by them. Use only that minimum you require for your position in life, according to your real needs. As for the rest:

Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

Pope Paul VI was truly poor. This was borne out by the way he wished to be buried: in a plain coffin in the bare earth. Shortly before dying he said to his brother, ‘I’ve been packing my bags for some time for that difficult journey.’ This is what you should do too: pack your bags.

Maybe in the time of Jesus they were called ‘purses’, but the meaning is the same. Prepare them daily. Fill them as full as you can with things that may be useful to others. You truly have what you give away. Think of how much hunger there is in the world. How much suffering. How many needs...

Put into your bags every act of love, every deed done for your neighbour.

Do everything for God. Tell him so in your heart, saying, ‘For You.’ Do everything well, with perfection. Your deeds are destined for heaven, they will endure for eternity.

Chiara Lubich

 

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