Do Your Possessions Own You?


23rd Sunday Ordinary Time

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: Sept. 4, 2022

As Christians, there are certain teachings of Jesus that make us feel good, teachings that make us comfortable.  Other teachings are much more difficult and uncomfortable.  If we are honest,  many times we tend to just ignore the difficult ones.  But, by passing them by, even if difficult, we miss out on some very important wisdom for our lives.

The teachings in today’s Gospel are some of those difficult ones.  It would be easier to ignore them, to pass them by.  In the very last line, Jesus says, “… whoever of you does not give up all their possessions cannot be my disciple.”  Are we ready to let go of all of our possessions?  Which possessions do we cling to?  Are we free or are we prisoners of our possessions?  Which are we able to let go of, to stop clinging to?

Years ago, a friend of mine had lost her only sister in her early 20’s, then her dad and finally her mother died as well.  She was the only one left and she inherited the family home that she grew up in here in Hamilton.  But, she worked and lived in Toronto.  She held on to that house since it was her connection to her family.  It was lots of work to have to return to look over it, one day a theft got in and stole things, other problems happened, it was a real burden for her.  But, she was clinging to this house finding it hard to let go.  I could understand her feelings, even if it had become a possession that was not allowing her to be free.  One day, a fire broke out and it burned down.  Though very difficult at the time, the loss of this possession, actually set her free.  She had to let go of it.

Possessions come and go.  At the end of our life, they are all left behind.  As we get older and you have to downsize, you are often forced to let go of many possessions that we have been clinging to through the years.  What are we clinging to?  What is weighing us down on the way?  Are our possessions an obstacle to us being free, an obstacle to following Jesus freely?

What possessions do you have? Which would you find most difficult to let go of?  I am not speaking about children or grandchildren or spouses or friends, since they are not possessions.

Do our possessions make us freer or less free?  Do they lead to holiness or away from holiness?

If some were gone tomorrow would it really make much difference?

“… whoever of you does not give up all their possessions cannot be my disciple.”  This is one of those tough teachings of Jesus that we prefer to just ignore.  But, there is a wisdom at its core.  Let it challenge you, let it force you to reflect.  Do your possessions own you or do you own your possessions?  How free are we in relation to our possessions?  We need to let this teaching confront us.

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What Is True Freedom?


6th Sunday Ordinary Time

Fr. Mark Gatto

Preached: February 13, 2022

Freedom:  Perhaps the word most in the news these days, is the word freedom.  Whether it is the so-called Freedom convoy and protests, or freedom of choice, or just the general ways in our society that we want freedom even from our commitments and obligations.  I will not get into the present day political issues, but it is important for us to have a good understanding of a Christian vision of freedom, and in particular, a good Catholic vision of freedom.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ has at its heart a call to freedom.  This was actually something new in the ancient world.  In Jesus, God has revealed the inherent dignity of human beings.  Each human being has a dignity that needs to be respected.  This dignity includes a real freedom.  Through the ages we have continued to deepen our understanding of the implications of this human dignity and freedom.  The eventual ending of slavery, the recognition of freedom of conscience and more recently the acceptance of religious liberty.

Christianity, when true to its roots, is a religion of freedom.  The danger of religious fundamentalism, including Christian fundamentalism, is that it is often rooted in fear, in the desire for certainty and authority, and usually in a return to an imagined past.  This leads away from human freedom, rejects freedom of human conscience and politically often leads to forms of oppression, force, and violence.

We require a Christian spirituality that promotes true human freedom.  A freedom that is able to lead to peace, to healing, to non-violence.  Jesus was radically free.  Free to love, free to share, free to give his life for us.  On the cross when sacrificing everything, Jesus was truly free.  His was a freedom for something.  Freedom for others, freedom for truth, freedom for goodness.

In our western world, we often see freedom in a purely individualistic way.  An individualism in which I am free of obligations or responsibilities for anything or anyone else.  An extreme, even narcissistic individualism is ultimately destructive, politically, economically, spiritually and ecologically.  One of the results of this individualistic vision of freedom is the enormous loneliness within our society.  Perhaps the greatest poverty that exists in our western world is the poverty of loneliness.

Jesus was radically free.  The personal freedom to do God’s will regardless of what anyone thought or said.  He was free to love without reserve.  His radical freedom made him fearless.  He was not a slave to money or wealth, not a slave to his own security or comfort, not a slave to popularity.

As Catholics, our understanding of freedom is never in an individualistic sense.  True freedom is always connected to communion.  Freedom is not true freedom if it is individualistic, selfish, self-centred.  Catholic social teaching is founded on the dignity of the human being.  But, not in an individualistic sense.  It is rooted in a common good and in solidarity.  We have obligations and responsibilities to one another and to our created world.

We speak of the Communion of the Saints, the very mystery of God in the Trinity is a living communion, the prayer of the church in the Eucharist is a communal gathering, not a private encounter with Jesus.  We speak of our planet earth as a common home, we speak of a common human family.  We are to care for our common home and for each other.

We just heard the Beatitudes as found in Luke’s Gospel.  These Beatitudes are at their core about freedom.  A freedom that is always connected to God, to our fellow human beings and to all creation.

Jesus says, “Woe to you who are rich, …, woe to you when all speak well of you.”  Why?  Because if they put their ultimate trust in wealth and money, if they live their life for wealth and money, then they are putting their trust in something that cannot save them.  Something that is short term.

Pope Francis in speaking about death this past week said,  “I have never seen a moving truck behind a hearse.”  All of the things we have, all of our money, the day we die it is all left behind, it is useless.  How sad to spend our life for something that will be utterly useless to us in the end.  Also, this wealth and riches can keep us from being free.  When we fearfully cling to our riches, we can lose our freedom to do what is good and true because we are more concerned with keeping our riches.

Also, are we truly free if we are overly concerned with the opinions of others.  If I feel the need to have the approval of others.  If I am afraid of not being popular with others, am I really free?

If my so-called freedom harms others, limits the freedom of others, leads to damage of the environment, ignores the basic needs of the poorest in our world, is it a worthwhile freedom?

The Christian faith at its best is a vision of freedom.  Jesus himself was radically free.  Our Catholic Church with its grounding in the dignity of the human being and the principles of the common good and solidarity, has a vision of freedom.  A freedom for love, for communion, for goodness.

Next time you hear a call for freedom, ask yourself, is this a freedom disconnected from God, disconnected from our fellow human beings, disconnected from creation? Is it a selfish, individualistic vision of freedom or is it a self-giving, communal vision of freedom?

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