FAITH AND CULTURE | Possessions that matter

In a culture of plenty, it is not difficult for us to be tempted by and acquiesce to the need to acquire innumerable possessions in our lives. In fact, much of our social interactions and conversations with others center on our ability to tell others about all the things we have.

We delight in sharing with our friends and family our latest bargain shopping experiences. Many of us have become experts in finding the best prices for the things we think we really need. And the retail industry has become quite adept at giving us easy and timely access to coupons and deals, both in print and digitally.

Likewise, in our own human aspirations, our desire for material possessions creeps in. We dream and fantasize about winning the lottery -- the bigger the pot, the bigger our fantasy and wishful-thinking. We even find ourselves sharing with others what we would do if we won the "big one!"

While not dismissing the value of being savvy shoppers and being imaginative with our fantasies, there is still room for critical reflection. Perhaps a better way of stating this need -- the need to review the stuff that clutters our life -- is to bring it to the light of faith.

Recently, Pope Francis has called attention to this issue of material possessions in his remarks concerning our "throwaway culture." In his public appearances, he reminds us in word and deed that our human worth is more than the sum total of our material gains.

He sees that we have all too easily sacrificed ourselves to the idols of money and consumption: "That some homeless people freeze to death on the street, that is not news. On the other hand, a drop of 10 points in the stock markets of some cities is a tragedy. That is how people are thrown away. We, people, are thrown away, as if we were trash."

As we ready ourselves to be a people of hospitality through our Thanksgiving celebrations and Advent preparations, we have an opportunity to build up our personal possessions with those things that really matter: family, friendship and faith. The urge and rush to go get our early shopping done may have to wait.

We know from our past experiences that when we take the time to gather around at the table of family, friendship and faith, wonderful and unexpected graces come to our lives. And while our encounters with one another may not always be flawless, we see the profound value these social-possessions have for us.

Our faith teaches us that among our most precious possessions is being a person for others: "If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven; then come, follow me" (Matthew 19: 21). In Jesus, we discover that the abundant joy and life we seek in wealth and material things can only be found in sacrificial love (John 12:24).

Orozco is director of Hispanic Ministry for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

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