I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)

It is difficult these days not to become alarmed and concerned for the future. Our longstanding familiarity with the letters of St. Paul, including the passage above, might cause us to overlook the treasure that is contained in them. That would be a mistake, for I believe this treasure holds new value in our time.

The above passage from Philippians speaks very clearly to those of us who are trying to live with increasing detachment from worldly things. As the world situation gets more unstable, we will need to cling to the guidance that Scripture and the Church gives us, for the temptations will likely be great to fear, to protectionism, and to despair. It is challenging even in good times to know how to judge what we have against what we need and what we owe to those who are in greater need. Then, what will it be like when times are bad? Here is a quote from Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical, Rerum Novarum:

“But if the question be asked: How must one’s possessions be used? – the Church replies without hesitation in the words of the holy (St. Thomas Aquinas): “Man should not consider his material possessions as his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need.” . . . True, no one is commanded to distribute to others that which is required for his own needs and those of his household; nor even to give away what is reasonably required to keep up becomingly his condition in life, “for no one ought to live other than becomingly.” But, when what necessity demands has been supplied, and one’s standing fairly taken thought for, it becomes a duty to give to the indigent out of what remains over. . . . It is a duty, not of justice (save in extreme cases), but of Christian charity – a duty not enforced by human law. But the laws and judgments of men must yield place to the laws and judgments of Christ the true God, who in many ways urges on His followers the practice of almsgiving.”

It is good to keep these things in mind as world events unfold. We who have lived in the affluent West really have no idea how we will react when faced with deprivation. I think the strength of the temptations could take us by surprise. I also think we will be glad of the discipline gained in following the Rule. In any case, it is certainly time to step up our prayer, penance, and time spent in Scripture. That is the only way to remain faithful, hopeful, and filled with peace regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

“Give me neither poverty nor riches; (provide me only with the food I need;) lest, being full, I deny you, saying, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or, being in want, I steal, and profane the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:8-9)

Jesus, I trust in you, who strengthens me. May God have mercy on us all.


One response

  1. Janet, your post is so timely. I have struggled with this for so many years, especially to know how deeply to dig and to give. I found some excellent material a few months ago and developed a talk:

    Salvation history, the beatitudes, the Magnificat, and the biblical concept of justice–all related, especially in regard to the poor and giving to the poor. See especially the end of the article, the supplement on the biblical concept of Justice.


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