Teresa of Calcutta tells of how she came across a Hindu family in India
that had not eaten for days. She took them a small amount of rice. She
was very surprised at what happened when she did so. Very quickly the
mother of the family had divided the rice into two halves. Then she
took half of it to the family next door, which happened to be a Moslem
family. Mother Teresa asked, "How could you have any left over?
there are many of you." The woman simply replied. "But they
have not eaten for days either!" "That" says Mother,
"takes greatness. Her greatness consisted in her ability to transcend
her own need, a greatness that is often found in the most extraordinary
demands space, a suspending of the urge for immediate satisfaction.
This, I think, is as true in the spiritual level as it is in the material
level. The person who spends 100% of his or her income on needs can
never grow out of poverty. In fact, such a person will go deeper into
poverty because they will probably invest resources that they do not
have in trying to hide their poverty from themselves and from others.
I recently heard of a houseboy working in Cebu who borrowed money to
buy an expensive ring and clothes to impress the people in his barrio
in Mindanao that he had a high paying job. He brought a friend with
him on his vacation and told his parents that this friend was from a
"high" family. His parents borrowed money to support the impression
that the son wanted to give that they were well off. The maneuvers that
they were making to conceal their poverty were sending them deeper into
it. At a recent conference on fish-workers from 31 countries it was
reported that the poor living in tin or cardboard houses will often
have expensive television and stereo sets - to hide their poverty. The
same happens on the psychological level. The person who is insecure
invests almost all of his/her energies in covering up their insecurity
and avoiding imagined pain. The pain of avoiding the imagined pain invariably
becomes greater than the pain that it was originally designed to avoid.
the person is to get out of poverty a space must be created. Some portion
of their income must be taken out and used for some form of production
rather than for needs. As this is done the person will have more income
for production and more production gives even more to spend on needs.
The proportion of the whole income going directly into needs will be
getting less and less. While the poor person may be spending 100% on
needs, the rich person may be spending much more but spending only 10%
of their income on needs.
today's Gospel Jesus challenged the people to let go of wanting and
to create space for something higher. He invited them to stop clamoring
for material things and to accept him, to interiorize him and his values
as the bread of their lives. They used the flimsiest excuse for not
believing him, "This man is the son of Joseph, isn't he?"
Then Jesus tells them that they must be drawn by the Father to come
All of us can fail to transcend. If our prayer is focused only on our needs there will be no space in which to hear ourselves being drawn by the Father. But if we let self behind and just focus on trying to meditate for a period every morning and every evening we may just hear the father call us to transcend. As we follow that call the joy of transcendence will exceed, while never eliminating, the joy of the fulfillment of needs.
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