We seek moderation in all things in order to be free of attachments that prevent us from being free to serve God and neighbor.
“As far as your health allows, keep your bodily appetites in check by fasting and abstinence from food and drink” (The Rule III, 14)
As we see in the encounter between Jesus and the rich young man, all Christians are called to live simply and rid their lives of those “earthly goods” that prevent them from following Christ more fully (Matthew 19:16-30). As Saint Augustine discovered in his experience of restlessness, his own attachment to earthly things led him to discover that ultimate happiness can only be found in God alone. The more he attached himself to things outside of God in an attempt to find fulfillment and happiness, the more conflicted he felt. St. Augustine therefore taught that “It is better for us to want a little than to have too much” (The Rule III, 18) so that we continue to seek our ultimate fulfillment in God.
Augustinians, like all Christians, must strive to continually detach ourselves from the things that compete with God for our time and attention and impact our ability to freely and generously love and serve our neighbor. This can include everything from material attachments (e.g., the need to always have the latest fashion which costs money that could be used to feed the poor); to hobbies that tie up our weekend and prevent us from cultivating a rich prayer life or serving in a particular ministry; to the pursuit of certain goals that may tie us down. Sometimes to be free we have to forgo some things for the sake of being more free.
Yet, this does not mean we have to go so far that we neglect our basic needs. We need clothes, hobbies, and goals as part of our personal wellbeing. However, the Gospel and Augustine’s synthesis of it warns us against excess attachment. Fasting, abstinence, sacrifice, self-denial are all therefore necessary components of spiritual growth and discipleship as a means to help us live lives that are more free to follow Christ and serve others.
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Reflection written by Jeremy Hiers, O.S.A.
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