My son wanted to name our new baby Reversela. I have to chalk it up to our family ritual of reading a Saint of the Day. We have found a wonderful kids’ website that gives child-appropriate descriptions of one of the saints whose feast day is celebrated that day. It’s become part of our bedtime ritual. I think to my son, Reversela sounded like one of the many Italian, German or French saints from the Middle Ages. He figured if she became a saint he would have coined a new saint’s name!
Aside from inspiring baby names (for the record, we chose another saint’s name for the new baby… one that’s less likely to get her shoved in a locker for her whole school career), reading about the saints on a regular basis has been really good for me. Every day I learn something new. Every day I find myself relating to some centuries-dead person because we both rewrite bad song lyrics or both have trouble explaining the faith to extended family. The saints are very real and very, very relevant.
One thing that has been especially helpful to me, and hopefully to my son, is to see that there isn’t a single saint who didn’t suffer. Whenever we read that so-and-so’s father died when he was a boy or their child died as a baby, it resonates with my son. He hates that it’s sad, but deep down I hope it speaks to the redeeming quality of the losses he has experienced. To me, it reminds me that this life never was easy and on this side of heaven it never will be.
Duh, right? Unfortunately, no. Especially in this recession, I hear people getting angrier and angrier about their economic situations. Heck, I look at my house value plummeting below what we still owe on it and get a little touchy. I look at our finances and lament that we can’t put more away for retirement or for college. I have become one of those crazy homemakers who goes crazy for double coupon day at the grocery store (today they are doubling 10! I can’t wait!). These fears and our attempts to be financially stable are valid. When my husband lost his job last year I had visions of living out of our van. I look at the homeless families who stay at our church one week a year and remind myself that they never thought they’d be in that situation either. But by the grace of God we go.
We all have economic fears, but like any fear in life, we need to put them in God’s hands. And what we especially need to avoid is anger at God for our financial woes. When we head down that track, we are treading dangerous ground. It’s one thing to wonder how the bills are going to get paid. It’s another to confuse the treasures of this world with the treasures of the next. Recently the First Reading was from Proverbs. It stated, “give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the food I need; Lest, being full, I deny you, saying, “Who is the LORD?” Or, being in want, I steal, and profane the name of my God.” (Prov 30:9).
Sometimes even those of us who really want to follow God make the dream of economic comfort a little false god. Yet, the Lord knows that in times of great prosperity there is always a temptation to forget God and begin to believe that we can control our own destinies. What a beautiful prayer we have in Proverbs. Lord, give me enough. Enough food to feed my family. Enough housing and clothes to keep me warm. Enough is a tough term for us Americans because we’ve reset the standard to Supersized. Enough food might mean brown bagging our lunch and not having seconds. Enough clothes might mean forgoing that new pair of jeggings for last year’s style jeans because they are still in good shape. Enough can mean driving a car ‘til it dies instead of upgrading to a less embarrassing model. Let’s be honest: enough can hurt our pride. Which is exactly why I think it’s what God wants from us! It helps us keep our eyes on him.
We also need to be attentive to the last part of that petition. Lord, let me have enough so I don’t profane you by stealing. If having just enough stings our pride, not having enough can make people bitter. So, it’s good for us in these economic times (and always) to remember to do what we can to help take care of those who don’t have enough. Because it’s not just a physical need. When we care for our brothers and sisters who need help in a way that softens the blow to their pride, we are an answered prayer. I means by which they can see God in their suffering.
Lastly, going back to the saints, it’s important to note that there were saints who were rich monarchs, middle class merchants and dirt poor beggars. We must not demonize any particular economic group. All of us, in whatever financial circumstance we find ourselves in, have been given enough grace to gain the riches that do not perish—heaven.
Copyright 2010 Libby DuPont