I am reminded of this when I read today’s Gospel passage, especially the part where one of the servants simply hid away the gold coin, out of fear that it would become lost or stolen. The servant did not use the coin to advance his master’s wealth. Instead, the coin used the servant, and fear was the vector.
Fear is a funny thing. It is supposed to protect us, but often becomes a debilitating factor which leads us open to more harm than we would otherwise be.
Like my friend’s father’s heart, fear encapsulates us slowly, unwittingly, until we awake one day and find ourselves constricted, unable to perform our normal daily activities, imprisoned in something which is supposed to keep us safe.
The servant may have done well to heed the spiritual masters and put last things first, to meditate upon his own death. This might sound morbid to some, but the truth is this: we are all – every one of us – going to die someday. And when we do, the riches that we have accumulated, the cars, the houses, the fame, the fortune, will not go with us. These things are fleeting, and to that extent, the more we focus upon them, the more they limit our movement, the more they constrict our hearts.
How many of us operate out of a fear of losing the things that we own? Could it be said, then, that they own us?
Our memorialized saint of the day, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, refused to be owned by the trappings of European royalty – she chose instead to dress simply and to share her wealth daily with the poor folks who gathered at the palace gates. Even when she was mistreated and thrown out of the palace after the death of her young husband, she continued to share whatever she had with the poor.
It is this act of sharing what one has, not the quantity of the sharing, which provides the experience that Jesus refers to time and time again in the Gospels.
Instead of giving us opportunities to develop and grow, when we view our possessions as items to protect at all costs, they constrict our growth and limit our freedom of movement, because we keep them hidden away in handkerchiefs.
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