While we are still celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas, you’ve most likely opened the presents, emptied the stockings, and exchanged gifts with your friends and family. And as you make room for all the new stuff you got at Christmas, you may already be looking at donating some of the older items in your home.
Donating used items and buying second-hand reduces waste, is good for the environment, and offers the opportunity for your old possessions to have a second life rather than sitting in a landfill. But recently on St. Joseph’s Workshop, Fr. Matthew Spencer, OSJ reflected on the fact that while our stuff can continue on after we’re done using them, it is our actions that outlive everything.
“To me, all of this stuff about the possessions we accumulate, whether it’s new, or whether it’s secondhand, whether we give stuff away at the same rate that we acquire stuff, it all to me has a moral dimension to it,” Fr. Matthew said. “Because of the attachments that you and I develop as human beings. It’s so easy for us to get attached to things. It’s so easy for us to think that happiness will come by possessing stuff. I see it all the time in Confession, in visiting people’s houses, in getting a glimpse of their lives, in accompanying individuals through funeral preparations and looking at the material things they’re going to have to dispose of or designate to different people.”
Think about how long you spent deciding what Christmas gift to get certain people in your life, and then think about your everyday actions toward those people. It’s easy to see how much more impact a good deed or an act of kindness can have on that person’s life. Much more than anything you can wrap in a box.
“What I think about is that your actions have an even longer life than the stuff you own,” he said. “That is to say, the good deeds that you perform or the bad deeds that you perform, have an enduring impact on the world. Even more so than our stuff, in my humble opinion. The good deeds that you either choose to do, or the bad deeds that you sadly sometimes choose to do affect people.”
And our actions don’t only affect the world and those around us. They affect us as well. In fact, the effect of our actions can carry on with us even after our earthly lives end.
Father Matthew pointed out, “I think we need to think about how our actions still live on after we sometimes forget about them; after we sometimes imagine that they’re done and over with. In fact, there are consequences into eternal life of our actions. When you and I choose to offer up the sufferings that we have, when you and I choose to cooperate with God’s grace, when you and I choose to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Jesus there are consequences in our life. Good consequences. There are consequences in the lives of those around us. Very good consequences. Even consequences that impact our eternal life and our eternal happiness.”
“I guess all of this to say that if we could only think about the enduring nature of not only stuff, not only things, not only the material world, but of our moral life and of our actions. It’s one of the main messages that Jesus brings, when He becomes incarnate and starts to share the Gospel with us – that our lives here on earth have an effect on the future, and have consequences even into eternity.