In a world that produces enough food to feed all, more than 800 million people still go hungry. CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey

Francis Campbell: Forget possessions, all we need is God

  • October 21, 2021

Plunking down in a pew for Sunday Mass on Thanksgiving weekend brought a good deal of satisfaction and relief.

Nova Scotians, for the most part, have done a commendable job of adhering to public health requirements and recommendations since the onset of the COVID pandemic some 19 months ago.

Our reward was an early October transition to a modified Phase 5 of the provincial recovery plan.

For the Catholic attending Mass, that translated into a return to somewhat traditional church-going procedures. It meant gaining entry to the church without requiring your name being checked off at the doorway by the ever-present Knights of Columbus or CWL member.

Inside the church, it meant that the barrier tape that had for months blocked off pews and parts of pews were nowhere to be seen.

In the pew, there was no longer a six-foot distance required from a non-family member. Masks were still required and holy water had not reappeared. There was no singing on this day and the regular collection went un-collected.

Still, just minor glitches in such a glorious return to semi-normal. 

The relief was short-lived, however. The return to quasi-normalcy gave way to the reading of an always challenging Gospel story.

A man runs up to Jesus in Mark’s Gospel and asks what he must do to inherit eternal life. After quizzing him about complying with the commandments, Jesus tells the man that he is lacking in one thing.

“Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in Heaven; then come, follow Me,” Jesus tells him.

At that, the man’s face fell and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

“How hard it is to enter the kingdom of God,” Jesus told the disciples. “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

The disciples were taken aback by His words, as am I every time I encounter that Gospel story.

I don’t consider myself a person of many possessions but I have much more than my share when stark global statistics are taken into account.

The group Action Against Hunger says around the world, more than enough food is produced to feed the global population but as many as 811 million people still go hungry.

Their definition of hungry comes from the UN Hunger Report, which categorizes hunger as periods when populations are experiencing severe food insecurity — meaning that they go for entire days without eating due to lack of money, lack of access to food or other resources.

After steadily declining for a decade, world hunger is on the rise, affecting 9.9 per cent of people globally, according to Action Against Hunger.

From 2019 to 2020, the number of undernourished people grew by as many as 161 million, a crisis driven largely by conflict, climate change and the COVID pandemic.

In the context of the staggering number of people who fall into the hungry and poverty categories, what do the words of Jesus mean?

We give our regular donation to the church, sponsor an 11-year-old boy from the Philippines through Chalice Canada and provide other sporadic gifts for Chalice recipients and different charities. But still, we have to wonder if that is enough.

The direction from Jesus to the man is to sell his possessions, give to the poor and finally to follow Him. Without following the first two directives, then, it would seem that following Him is impossible or at least very difficult.

Hopefully, the lesson is that possessing too much can create a gulf between us and God and that we can become obsessed with acquiring more instead of paying attention to God and His will. That explanation could simply be a justification for social justice failings, our way of going away sad and holding on tightly to what we have.

But in the days when a light is visible at the end of the COVID tunnel, the optimist should look at that Gospel and be reassured that Jesus did not condemn the man. Rather, even before telling the man he was lacking, Jesus looked at him and loved him.

Moreover, when the apostles wondered who then could be saved, Jesus offered them the following lifeline to salvation.

“For human beings, it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”

(Campbell is a reporter with the Halifax Chronicle Herald.)

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