What we really own




I have recently been doing some reflection on the things I own.

This happened out of sheer necessity when we moved to Evansville three years ago, as we didn’t need to cart a bunch of unnecessary stuff with us across the country. We left plenty in Wyoming, our former home, before we packed the moving van. Some went to our kids and their families, some went to Goodwill and St. Vincent DePaul, and some went to the landfill. We lightened our load quite a bit.

Now that we have been here for a while, we have gotten a better handle on the things we need to continue to use and keep. My wife has been the driver behind both the shedding of things prior to the move and also the latest round of expulsions from the inventory.

She is the real conscience of our family, and I have told people that fact for years. She believes we can grow closer to God by living a simpler life, and that means reducing the amount of stuff we have. I agree with her completely, but I sometimes have a difficult time letting go of things I own.

But what do I really own? I look around our house and see the things we have accumulated over the years. Some of these items are needed for everyday living, like plates and glasses, furniture and clothes. Other things are for more recreational purposes, and we derive a certain joy from their use, e.g., music, art and education.

An examination of those things tells me that I really don’t own any of them. A constant theme in my writing here expresses the truth that all we have comes from God, but we don’t own any of it. He is really just lending it to us. While we are here, we are given the responsibility of caring for those things; but we must return them to God with increase. He owns them, not us. Someday, somebody else will receive the things we have acquired. When we shuffle off this mortal coil, they are not coming along with us.

So God owns everything, and we don’t own anything. Except …

I attended a Catholic stewardship conference in Orlando last fall. Each day, Mass was celebrated and was a highlight of the agenda. One of the celebrants was Archbishop Thomas Wenski of the Archdiocese of Miami. His homily during Mass was wonderful, containing a very strong message about the Gospel call to stewardship. But there was one sentence that stood out in such a way that, while reinforcing the idea we really don’t own anything, there is an exception to that rule.

“The only thing we own is our sin.”

Well, now. That’s a disturbing truth.

All that stuff that surrounds us? All on loan from God.

That dark spot on our souls? All ours.

As Christian stewards, we are called to live simpler lives and not be consumed with the acquisition of stuff. An assessment of the stuff we have, and the shedding of that which takes place, helps us get closer to God. But the one thing that drives a wedge between us and God is the only thing that we actually own. Fortunately for us, we can get rid of that one thing because God’s mercy is infinite.

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