Around Christmas time I usually get the question, “What do you want for Christmas?” My answer is usually something like, “I don’t need a thing.” I am then told by the recipient of my answer, that I’m not being helpful.
In the Benedictine way of thought, our needs should be very small, and our wants should never exceed what we truly need. It is said that a truly wealthy person is one who is satisfied with what he has. This lesson was driven home to me on my sabbatical, where I learned to be very satisfied with enough clothes to keep me warm, three meals a day, and perhaps a good book to read. What I wanted during my sabbatical wasn’t material. I wanted and needed the touch of my wife’s hand, a hug from one of my children, and a few words from a true friend.
It was good for me to be stripped and deprived of any other needs or wants. I sometime wonder if we don’t all need a second Lenten season. How well would we do if for forty days we deprived ourselves of all wants, and prayed and meditated instead?
The Benedictines teach that the material side of existence should be treated reverently, ownership of anything is always temporary and we are to be good stewards of the material things entrusted to our care. We must also be constantly on guard against making the material an end.