One of the hallmarks of COVID is the tendency to hoard things. I remember videos of people literally running through Costco the minute it opened up so they could fill their entire cart with toilet paper. Some people bought 8 packages of 12 rolls each – 96 rolls of toilet paper! Others hoarded Lysol, flour, pasta, or whatever they felt they must secure for themselves before someone else got it.
At the root of this behavior is an attitude of scarcity, which teaches that there’s only so much, and if I allow you to get some, there’s less for me. So I’d better get all of it that I can, even if I won’t use it in a year’s time and even if it means several other people can’t have any at all. Contrast that with an attitude of abundance, which says that even if there is a finite supply, there is enough for everyone. Your gain is not my loss. In fact, your gain is my gain, too. The entire world benefits when more people have what they need.
I believe this is what Jesus meant when he said that whoever loves their life in this world will lose it, but whoever hates their life in this world will gain eternal life. He didn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy our lives, provide for our families, and love with all our hearts. Jesus certainly loved life – so much so that he was accused of being a drunkard and a glutton! But he doesn’t want us to cling to the things of this life, to grab whatever we can at another’s expense, to discriminate against anyone, or to strive for power and prestige. In fact, Jesus immediately continued this teaching by saying that we need to be servants of all, putting others before ourselves, and follow him.
What does that kind of discipleship look like? Whenever someone needed comfort, healing, care, or kindness, Jesus gave willingly and generously. When others were hungry, he shared his food and helped them multiply their food until all were filled. He never turned his back, told people they deserved their state in life, called them demeaning names, or judged them. He always looked for ways that he could personally make it better, and at the same time he called out the authorities and powers of the day for the ways they made it worse. He operated from an attitude of abundance, and was never concerned that if someone else gained something, he was diminished. He never looked at life as a win-lose proposition in which he made sure he was always winning. He looked instead for win-win, where everyone had what they needed and was treated with the dignity that we all deserve. He truly was a servant to all.
We are called to serve, not to cling. We have to speak up, act, and raise the bar in a world where so many people are lowering it. As the prayer attributed to St. Teresa of Avila speaks so well: Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out on the world. Yours are the feet with which Christ is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which Christ is to bless all people.
What can you do today to live out that call?
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.corgenius.com/.