Where You Can’t Be Bought Off
Friday, October 7, 2016
When Francis said, after kissing the leper, “I left the world,” he was saying that he was giving up on the usual payoffs, constraints, and rewards of business-as-usual and was choosing to live in the largest Kingdom of all. To pray and actually mean “thy Kingdom come,” we must also be able to say “my kingdoms go.” At best, most Christians split their loyalties between God and Caesar, but Francis and Clare did not. Their first citizenship was always, and in every case, elsewhere, which paradoxically allowed them to live in this world with joy, detachment, and freedom (see Philippians 3:20).
When you agree to live simply, you put yourself outside of others’ ability to buy you off, reward you falsely, or control you by money, status, salary, punishment, and loss or gain. This is the most radical level of freedom, but, of course, it is not easy to come by. Francis and Clare had little to lose, no desire for gain, no loans or debts to pay off, and no luxuries that they needed or wanted. Most of us can only envy them.
When you agree to live simply, you do not consider the immigrant, the refugee, the homeless person, or the foreigner as a threat to you or as competition with you. You have chosen their marginal state for yourself—freely and consciously becoming “visitors and pilgrims” in this world, as Francis puts it (quoting 1 Peter 2:11). A simple lifestyle is quite simply an act of solidarity with the way most people have lived since the beginnings of humanity. It is thus restorative justice instead of the very limited notion of retributive justice.
When you voluntarily agree to live simply, you do not need to get into the frenzy of work for the sake of salary or the ability to buy nonessentials or raise your social standing. You enjoy the freedom of not climbing. You might climb for others, but not only for yourself.
When you agree to live simply, you have time for spiritual and corporal works of mercy because you have renegotiated in your mind and heart your very understanding of time and its purposes. Time is not money, despite the common aphorism. Time is life itself!
When you agree to live simply, people cease to be possessions and objects for your consumption or use. Your lust for relationships or for others to serve you, your need for admiration, your desire to use people or things as commodities for your personal pleasure, or any need to control and manipulate others, slowly—yes, very slowly—falls away. Only then are you free to love.
Gateway to Silence:
Live simply so that others may simply live.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 36-40.