Ecclesiastes 1: 2; 2: 21-23; Psalm 89, Response: In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge; Colossians 3: 1-5, 9-11; Gospel—Luke 12: 13-21
This Sunday’s readings remind us of the graces of detachment and indifference. As the Gospel counsels, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
In the First Principle and Foundation of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises, he talks about the principles or virtues of stewardship, detachment and indifference.
He says that the whole of creation is “gifted” to us as a means to help us attain the end for which we are created, i.e., “to praise, reverence and serve God,” and thus attain salvation or union with God. While one may critique this concept of stewardship as anthropocentric, it is rather progressive, considering this was written 500 years ago.
From this sense of stewardship, one develops a healthy sense of detachment from all things. Though expressed in the negative, the term “no inordinate attachment” more clearly delivers the message.
This detachment leads to an indifference to all things and choosing how to help us attain union with God.
In one talk I gave, I responded to a question about indifference as loving all of God’s gifts, but loving God above all things and at the core of all things. Such a love is most deeply lived through loving obedience to God’s will for us, lovingly and generously living out our mission. The operative words are “our mission.”
In the book “The Second Mountain,” David Brooks tells the story of Fred Swaniker of Ghana. Born in 1976, Swaniker was blessed with opportunities, including scholarships to study in the United States. He earned a degree from the Stanford Business School, graduating in the top 10 of his class.
But he was constantly reminded that hundreds of millions of young Africans won’t be as blessed. With the help of his Silicon Valley friends, he raised money and went back to Africa to open the African Leadership Academy, with the goal to train 6,000 leaders over a 50-year period. This mission evolved into the African Leadership University with the goal of opening 25 universities across the continent.
Swaniker is the epitome of the virtues of stewardship, detachment and indifference that young people can emulate. He dedicated himself to his mission, to what God wants him to do to make the world a better place.
This August, The Giving Pledge celebrates its ninth anniversary. In 2010, Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet, together with 38 other couples and individuals, came together to start The Giving Pledge.
“The Giving Pledge is a simple concept: an open invitation for billionaires, or those who would be if not for their giving, to publicly dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.” (https://givingpledge.org/About.aspx)
Fred Swaniker and The Giving Pledge both make concrete in our world today the lesson of the Gospel this Sunday. It is not the worldly treasures, but our treasure in heaven which will count in the end. It is not what we accumulate in this world that will give us joy, but what we are willing to give up and sacrifice for.
I have often been asked why I left the Ateneo de Manila and the Society of Jesus. The real reason was I chose to do what God clearly wanted me to do, to help improve our public schools through teacher formation.
After close to 15 years of pursuing this mission, this has evolved into what is perhaps the core of the mission, which is to give young Filipinos the opportunity to dream of a better life and the opportunities to make real this dream through good public schools they can attend.
Will I succeed? Maybe, depending on how we are to measure success. Yes, so long as I focus on doing what God wants me to do. —CONTRIBUTED