Jesus Christ became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich. -2 Corinthians 8:9
The one thing I’ve never really wanted to be in my 70 plus years of life is poor. As a child, I remember wanting to be a fireman like Mr. Stretcher who lived across the street from us. We lived not far from a route used by the local fire department and often heard their sirens on the way to a fire. Seeing them flying by, not paying any attention to the stop lights, looked adventuresome.
When I got a little older, sometime around the seventh grade, I thought I’d really like being a priest like Fr. Casper C.P., our assistant pastor. He was pretty “neat.” Instead of asking us questions like, “Why did God make you?” He’d tell us stories of hiking in the hills of California which to my limited traveling experience really sounded exotic. So eventually I headed off to the seminary where I read stories of saints like Thomas Moore who was locked away in the London Tower for refusing to go against his conscience or Ignatius Loyola who left home even though his parents didn’t want him to. I really wanted to be like these saints, who if they were poor or even wanted to be poor, I never remember reading that. I wanted to follow them because they were courageous and willing to be themselves.
For much of my actual working life, I wanted to make money. I chose teaching in the public schools over the Catholic schools because they paid much better. When I wasn’t teaching, I sold things. What I like most about selling was the promise of making as much money as I wanted to—it just depended on how hard and smart I was willing to work. Being poor? No, I never heeded that challenge to follow Jesus in choosing to be poor.
Today, I’ve decided I want to be like Jesus and choose to be poor. Wouldn’t you know it though, I don’t know how to do that responsibly. I’ve been blessed, or maybe cursed with being a privileged white man, meaning I’ve been able to financially meet my needs. I relate well to what Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians “I am very well supplied because of what I received from you…” (4:18)
Jesus, please help me understand what you are challenging me (us) to do today and give me the courage to truly follow you.
Dan O’Donnell is a Passionist Partner and a longtime friend of the Passionists. He lives in Chicago.