Lectionary resources for worship, faith formation, and service
When I was in my twenties I spent 8 months backpacking through Southeast Asia, India and Nepal. It was an eye-opening adventure that took me into places of extreme beauty and abject poverty. At one point I trekked in the Himalayas for days on end with nothing but a daypack strapped to my back. To keep the weight in the pack to a minimum, I carried one change of clothes, a hand towel and one bar of soap. The soap was used daily to wash my body, hair, cup, bowl and eating utensils. Periodically it was used to wash out my clothes which I would pin to my pack during the day to dry. It was the closest I’ve ever come to simple living.
When I returned to Canada my travelling companion and I found an apartment to rent and made our way to the grocery store to stock up on necessaries. I still remember standing in the laundry detergent section of the store immobilized by the choices before us. After happily managing with one bar of soap to cover a multitude of hygienic needs while travelling, we were overwhelmed by the selection of liquid, powder, cold and hot water, fabric softener and bleach items before us. It was a clear moment of reckoning. How were we going to live in our affluent society bearing the knowledge of so many around the world who have not much more than the clothes on their back?
I have to admit in those early days of my return to North American life I wasn’t very gracious with those around me. I harshly judged my close friend for her excitement about a new leather couch. I scorned my brother’s financial success. As I tried to sort through my own issues of how to live faithfully in an unjust world I alienated more than a few people.
Perhaps that’s why I’m struck by the compassion Jesus shows the man with many possessions who comes to him seeking eternal life in this week’s Gospel reading. Jesus actually seems to understand the struggle of the wealthy who want to know true abundance and live a way that brings life to all and he offers a solution. Walk with God and the way forward becomes possible. For those of us who live with the majority of the world’s wealth that invitation is much more empowering than being brow beaten with guilt.