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Are you making full and right use of things?
Your life is filled with objects that aren’t good or bad in themselves. Things ill-used, though, can become problematic for you – causing little ‘knots’ of attachment, blindness, rebellion and disorder in the soul, and thus disposing you to sin. Use of one thing can get disordered when we lean on it too much, or remove it from the context of other things, just as monoculture can be detrimental to the land and as vitamins are less effective than whole foods. Having just come through the salutary corrective of Lenten fasting, you may feel a newness of life, a lightness of soul and, thus be particularly well-disposed to do an interior scan for trouble spots.
To that end, I offer some paired statements – like scales into which you can mentally place some of your things. Notice whether your use of each thing resonates more with Freedom or Bondage. Then take steps to tip the scale toward freedom, untie the knot, change the way you use it. Each statement can apply to a variety of things, but I had these twelve in mind as things I, personally, need to ‘weigh’ regularly: food, alcohol, computer, desserts, friends, TV/movies, air conditioner, car, my imagination, books, and money. One final word on the right use of things: When you misuse, or use things less well, you increase your disposition to sin. When you bless them, they – actual things around you – help dispose you to receive grace! Here it is in the Catechism:
“Among sacramental, blessings (of persons, meals, objects and places) come first.” (CCC 1671) “Sacramentals…prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it. …There is scarcely any proper use of material things which cannot be thus directed toward the sanctification of men and the praise of God.” (CCC 1670)
Now I’ve learned from experience that the first thing that happens when I say, “Hey, the Catechism teaches that we should bless the things we use (CCC 1669: Sacramentals derive from the baptismal priesthood: every baptized person is called to be a “blessing,” and to bless. Hence lay people may preside at certain blessings; the more a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, the more is its administration reserved to the ordained ministry (bishops, priests, or deacons)” is that I’ll hear cautions about never, ever stepping into the role of a priest (I am NOT going there…the door is closed, Peter has spoken, I love that!) and not to think I’m ‘creating Sacramentals,’ and ‘only a priest can make the Sign of the Cross’. Okay, calm down everybody! The priesthood of all believers “derives from” our High Priest, Jesus Christ. This little possibility that our own little invocation, prayer, utterance that springs from awareness and gratitude and trust in God is not the stuff heretic alerts should be made of.
I don’t advise anyone to go around thinking they have magic powers…only whatever it is Jesus meant when He said we would do greater things than He had yet done. Somehow it resonates with me that those things are going to be greater because they are smaller, like blessing my computer, my garden, my art supplies. He seems to have allowed me in to play at asperging the world while His own Divine Mercy accomplishes the great washing by the blood and water flowing from His side. I have not found a definitive statement about not making the Sign of the Cross, but am willing to be instantly stopped in the practice by my bishop, or priest if it is in any way not the done thing. As I make that Sign over my world, I am praying, “God, please bless this notebook, this book, this stove, this car, this printer, etc…” and am never thinking I have just turned them into official Sacramentals. They do, however, now possess a heightened significance for me that, hopefully, disposes me to receive God’s beautiful grace. As I look around I am reminded to give God glory in profundis, and to be hopeful that my use of each little thing in my sphere will somehow magnify and please Him.