Thursday, March 19, 2020




It may well appear as somewhat contradictory to reflect upon dispossession and poverty at a time when, given the rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic, government leaders, health experts are telling everyone to secure at least a two week supply of necessities like and food and medicine, yet this is, in a sense, the inconvenience of the Gospel, as exemplified by Christ not clinging to His Divinity that He might become one of us, by the poor widow who out of the little she had for the necessary, from the depths of her poverty, gave all that she had: Mk.12:41-44 & Lk. 21: 1-4.

While these reflections on living out the Gospel with our lives without compromise are drawn from the Little Mandate [1] of the Madonna House consecrated community, this is not to imply it is better than any other template. Many people follow Franciscan spirituality, Rod Dreher urges applying what he calls “The Benedict Option”, drawing on the Holy Rule of St, Benedict. [2] From the treasury of the Church with all the various ways founders and foundresses have developed guidelines for truly incarnating the Gospel in our lives without compromise, the additional wealth of writings of the saints, from the Epistles of St. Paul to the sayings of the Desert Fathers, across the millennia to documents of Vatican II, the writings of the Popes, everyone can find inspiration and encouragement for Gospel living.

To reflect upon sell all you possess, in a primarily material, economic sense, is to be tricked by satan into reductionism, that is to reduce everything to its lowest possible meaning, thus when Christ calls us to be dispossessed, and we like the Apostles often respond by asking what will we get in return, [cf. Mk. 10:17-31], in that we have taken our attention away from what should be the primary focus, benefit if you will, of dispossession, which is eternal life, that is to be forever in the loving embrace of the Most Holy Trinity.

No amount of stuff now can satisfy us as much as dwelling peacefully in faith, love, hope, light, joy, which is to dwell with Christ in the present moment, yes with suffering, persecution and anything else the world, the flesh and the devil can smack us with, even this pandemic with all its suffering, fear, panic, uncertainty. It is of paramount importance that when we are in crisis mode of any kind, we rush into the arms of Christ. We must cling to Christ, and with Him be light and hope in this culture of darkness and death, never forgetting, no matter how raw our emotions: Suffering is, in itself, an experience of evil. But Christ has made suffering the firmest basis of the definitive good, namely the good of eternal salvation. By his suffering on the Cross, Christ reached the very roots of evil, of sin and death. He conquered the author of evil, Satan, and his permanent rebellion against the Creator. To the suffering brother or sister Christ discloses and gradually reveals the horizons of the Kingdom of God: the horizons of a world converted to the Creator, of a world free from sin, a world being built on the saving power of love. And slowly but effectively, Christ leads into this world, into this Kingdom of the Father, suffering man, in a certain sense through the very heart of his suffering. For suffering cannot be transformed and changed by a grace from outside, but from within. And Christ through his own salvific suffering is very much present in every human suffering, and can act from within that suffering by the powers of his Spirit of truth, his consoling Spirit. [3]

A great sin of greed, the antithesis of Gospel poverty and purity of heart, is part of this current pandemic crisis within the human family, greed resulting from panic causing people to hoard more food and other necessities than truly, objectively, rationally, is necessary; the even greater evil of profiteering, which is occurring on an increasingly large scale. This latter is to see the man laying in the ditch, of whom Jesus speaks in the Gospel, and not just heartlessly passing by, but beating him while he is down and stripping him naked, [Lk. 10:29-37] or being like the rich man who ignored Lazarus, [Lk. 16: 19-31]. It is the loveless hardheartedness which will place us in mortal jeopardy at the Last Judgement: [Mt. 25: 31-46].

What exactly are possessions and what do we actually possess, for understanding the matter of possessions and how much or little ownership/control of what we possess is critical, if we are to understand and embrace Gospel poverty.

Possession means owning, having control over something, which is why, for example, any type of seeking to possess as in control another human being – spouse, child, or other – beyond normal, healthy, holy influence rooted in love as servant-spouse, servant-parent, servant-friend, is the abomination of enslavement and is a serious sin, and given that whatever we do to one another we do to Christ, aggravates the deadly seriousness of such sin.

This applies to our own selves as well, for as St. Paul reminds us we in fact do not possess ourselves in the sense of ownership as the surrounding culture defines it: possessing/controlling/making use of as we will: ….do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a great price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. [1 Cor. 6:19,20] The price paid of course is that of the passion and death of Jesus Christ, who paid it willingly for we are His beloved.

St. Paul also urges us when it comes to the ‘use’ we make of ourselves: …. by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. [Rms. 12: 1,2]

Selling what we ‘possess’ is most effectively accomplished by living out the Great Commandment to love one another as Christ loves us. It is: …to put on the mind of Jesus, to love as God loves, is a new manner of being in the world that must be born from the depths of the soul as a response to God’s approach and invitation. [4]

Ultimately everything that we have, even what we possess because we have worked for it and bought it, originates as gift, first and foremost our very existence, the prime Giver of Gifts being the Most Holy Trinity who with love gifts us with existence, a gift of life which becomes even greater when we cross the threshold of death and enter that dimension of the gift of existence which will never be taken back, never end, because through His Passion, Death and Resurrection Jesus has purchased redemption and eternal salvation for us IF we accept this gift by striving to lead lives that are peaceful, loving, without sin, holy as faithful disciples.

Likewise, genuine, selfless, holy love from another is gift, a gift we can give also in loving other.

Indeed if we look objectively at any aspect of our lives, truly all is gift, and thus in a sense when it comes to possessing anything that is an ephemeral state of affairs both because things wear out, and because given we are born emptied handed, so shall we die: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” [Mt.6:19-21]

Three examples of how everything is gift: Some men say yes to the vocation of priesthood and thus we have access to sacramental life through which the Most Holy Trinity gifts us with sanctifying grace; a man and woman say yes to the holy vocation of marriage and co-operate with the Holy Trinity that children may be born, grow, be graced, follow their own vocation and both of these, indeed all vocations are a dimension of selling all we possess, especially if we love one another; a man or woman says yes to the vocation of a life of loving service as health care providers and we are cared for whenever we are sick, need surgery or medicine, need special care in our old age.

We are surrounded by gift, gifts flowing from brothers and sisters who, even while earning a wage, are doing things, making things we need to fulfill our own vocations, to live lives that are peaceful, holy and without sin, and we too are gifters.

Seen from this perspective, and lived out, we could transform our greedy, consumerist culture into one of generosity, moderation, dispossession, actual care for the poor, into a culture of love.

When enacted in imitation of Christ and for love of one another, each thing we do, no matter how seemingly small, and frankly even the allegedly ‘great’ things we do are small in the grand scheme of salvation history, yes each act has a redemptive quality and value, for this is how we participate in our own person in the sufferings of Christ for the salvation of souls.

To sell all you possess is hardly a matter of material things, though that is a component of it.

Truly to sell all you possess is to be dispossessed of self, to be primarily aware of the other and their needs, as Christ was and always is for us.


[2] The Benedict Option, Rod Dreher, Sentinel, 2018


[4] p. 288; FIRE OF MERCY HEART OF THE WORLD, Volume III; Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis; Ignatius Press, 2012

© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph

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