A key aspect of monastic life that people seize upon is Poverty. This is one of the vows we take: not that we should own nothing, as such, but that we should own everything in common.
The figure who really began western Christian monasticism was a man called Anthony. We know him as St Anthony of the Desert, the father of Western Christian monasticism. He heard the call from God to sell all he had and follow him, and he did so. People thought that he was mad, not unlike how they thought of St Francis, later on, when he converted to a life of poverty. But, whilst Francis went out to work in the vineyard of souls, Anthony retreated to quiet places in the desert to live as a hermit. People followed him because they began to realize that he had a special vocation, a relationship with God that they wanted to know about. They saw that he disregarded wealth and temporal possessions, and chose poverty in solitude as his way to the Father.
The concept of renouncing temporal wealth is a tricky one. By doing this, we are saying to the Lord that he is our all in all, not the manna of the world but of heaven. Yet, it is difficult to make this leap of faith. Not all are called to a life of poverty. Perhaps Jesus saw in the man in the Gospel an individual who had a calling to poverty but would not take it. Some of us, like us monks, have that calling. Others are called to live in the world. Jesus isn’t expecting us all to do what Anthony and Francis did. But he is inviting us all to take our gaze off money as our goal and our God, and turn to him for our direction. We can do this even with the money we have, and by doing so we shall be following the message of today’s Gospel. He doesn’t want us all to live like Anthony in a cave off scraps sent to us in baskets by locals! But let us remember the centre of today’s Gospel message: that we should look to him as our all in all.
How, then, are we looking to him? Do we concentrate too much on buying things and on having the best tech or the best car? When we have money for a house do we buy the very best one we possibly can purchase and then have noting left? Our Lord asks us today to realign our hearts with him; not with commercial goods but him. Not keeping up with the Joneses but Him. We should keep up with him, and by that we mean this: following his message, doing all we can to live in simplicity, allowing for the space we need in our hearts and lives to let God in.
How shall we begin doing this today?
The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark (10:17-30)
Glory to you, O Lord.
Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him,
‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’
Jesus said to him,
‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.‘
And he said to him,
‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’
Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said,
‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’
But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.
Jesus looked round and said to his disciples,
‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them, ‘how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.‘
They were more astonished than ever.
‘In that case’ they said to one another ‘who can be saved?‘
Jesus gazed at them.
‘For men’ he said ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’
Peter took this up.
‘What about us?‘ he asked him. ‘We have left everything and followed you.’
‘I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.