Monday, December 5, 2016

Grow in Holiness this Advent Wk 2; Conquering Covetousness

In Dicken's A Christmas Carol we meet the embodiment of Avarice, Ebenezer Scrooge, a man who loved gold more than God. His opinion of Christmas is well known to us all,
Merry Christmas! Out upon a merry Christmas! What's Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in 'em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I could work my will... every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' upon his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his hear. He should! (pp. 5-6)
Scrooge's love for money has replaced not only his love of Christmas, but love of anything else. This love of money isn't just greed, it is a false religion.

Dante dramatically presents this reality to us when he stands before the damned Pope Nicholas III (Giovanni Gaetano Orsini),
Fatto v'avete dio d'oro e d'argento;e che altro รจ da voi a l'idolatre,se non ch'elli uno, e voi ne orate cento?
You have wrought yourselves a god of gold and silver.
How then do you differ from those who worship idols
except they worship one and you a hundred? (Inferno 19.112-114)
St. Thomas Aquinas addresses the "spirit of Scrooge" in the Summa
man seeks, according to a certain measure, to have external riches, in so far as they are necessary for him to live in keeping with his condition of life. Wherefore it will be a sin for him to exceed this measure, by wishing to acquire or keep them immoderately. This is what is meant by covetousness, which is defined as "immoderate love of possessing." It is therefore evident that covetousness is a sin. (II-II. Q. 118, A. 1)
Or, in the more recent words of Pope Benedict XVI
Material possessions, in themselves, are good. We would not survive for long without money, clothing, and shelter. We must eat in order to stay alive. Yet if we are greedy, if we refuse to share what we have with the hungry and the poor, then we make our possessions into a false god. How many voices in our materialist society tell us that happiness is to be found by acquiring as many possessions and luxuries as we can! But this is to make possessions into a false god. (Address to Disadvantaged Youth, in Sydney, Australia.)
How tempting it is this time of year, especially for those who ignore Advent, focusing solely on the "shopping season" of the secular Christmastide - Black Friday through December 24th, to focus overly much on possessions. Indeed, admirably, much of this is the opposite of what Scrooge lived for. He wanted only to take, to increase, while ignoring those others about him. We rather look to purchase things for others, for those we love and cherish. However, this Advent I would recommend to you to take it one step further - give to someone in need. Not just through an organization, great and commendable as that may be, but directly, personally. How can you find such people? Contact your parish, they'll point you in the right direction. For Scrooge himself began to recognize this. While haunted by the Ghost of Christmas Past, upon seeing his younger self, he remembers a small boy who had earlier began singing God bless you, merry gentlemen! May nothing you dismay! at his keyhole. Scrooge's reaction?
Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action, that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost. (p. 9)
His later reaction to his behavior?
'I wish,' Scrooge muttered, putting his hand in his pocket, and looking about him, after drying his eyes with his cuff: 'but it's too late now.'
'What is the matter?' asked the Spirit.
'Nothing,' said Scrooge. 'Nothing. There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should have liked to have given him something: that's all.' (p. 26)
We might not have the poor singing carols at our doors, but they might be a lot closer than you think.

If that isn't enough to motivate you, remember how Jesus, "the reason for the season," identifies Himself with the poor,
Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you... For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.... Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me. (Matt. 25:34-40, ESV)
Have a holy Advent.
Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. (Rev. 22:20-21, ESV) 
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