CHRIST said it in so many words. “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven. Again, I say to you, 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.” (Mt 19,23-24)
These words caused great astonishment among his disciples and, of course, to us, to whom these words are now addressed. We can echo the same reaction of the disciples, “Who then can be saved?”
We always need to be reminded that while we have to use and even possess many things in this life, we should see to it that our hearts, which are meant only to be given totally to God, are not attached and trapped in them. The material and temporal things we use and possess in this life are meant only as means, never as ends, to bring us to God in heaven.
That is why Christ had been consistently teaching about detachment from the things of this world and even from people. “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life,” he said, “he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14,26-17)
We obviously have to understand these words properly. We are men and women with material and emotional needs. We cannot let go of our loved ones if we want to retain our humanity, and of course, of our Christianity. But we have to realize that meeting these human needs should be animated by the proper spirit of love that Christ is showing and giving us. It should not displace such spirit.
Again, let’s be reassured of what Christ promised us if we observe the proper priorities in our life. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Mt 6,33) And, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for the sake of My name will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” (Mt 19,29)
We need to have a certain detachment from persons and things to be able to give our heart entirely to God, and with him, we actually have everything else we need. As St. Teresa of Avila put it graphically, with God we have enough—“solo Dios basta.”
So, the detachment our Lord is asking of us actually does not mean that we hate our life, our parents and others, and the things of this world. In fact, he himself commands us to love them and everyone else. Rather it is a detachment that asks of us to have rectitude of intention, that everything that we do be for the glory of God.
Regarding the things of this world, we should realize that they are meant to lead us to ask ourselves whether they are truly in accordance to God’s will, to his true designs of the world, and whether we can discern how they can be used to give glory to God, which is a matter of loving him and serving the whole of humanity.
We have to be wary of the danger of discovering and using things simply in accordance to our own understanding of them and also to our own interest only. This is a common and abiding danger that we have to be most wary about. We have to do everything to avoid and overcome that danger.