What more could Christ renounce than his very seat in heaven, that from such divine heights he emptied himself to take on flesh. In becoming man, he saw fit to not even claim ownership of his divine nature; and on this earth he claimed no property as his own. He had no home as we hear in the Gospel: “The Son of Man does not even have a place to lay his head.” He gave his love, his power to heal, his wisdom, his compassion and even the moments when he had retreated in prayer, he gave to the disciples when they had sought him out. Christ gave to this world all that could have been his. There is nothing in him that he reserved for his own and claimed ownership over. In the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed: “Father, be it not my will that is done, but your,” and before his death, “My life is my own to give and I give it freely.” In Christ we see the greatest depths of the renunciation of ownership and how far it goes beyond the ownership of material goods and things. The renunciation of ownership is the activity of love, of giving rather than keeping, that draws our awareness outward to the other so that it is in this renunciation that we truly mimic the life of Christ.
When I was living in the Order (during my novitiate year), I was not only living in a house with several brothers, but our house itself was part of a larger compound with the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Instead of a couple of trash cans, we shared a large dumpster. As you might expect, people from all around the area would drive by and dump their trash in our dumpster. One night, I was walking outside when I saw a middle-aged man pull up in a relatively new sedan, he popped open the trunk, pulled out a couple of bags, tossed them into the dumpster and then drove off. For a moment, I though about yelling at the guy—I had been close enough I likely could have even run over and stopped him before he had left. Here he was, using our dumpster to get out of paying his weekly trash collection fee...and then what I was thinking actually hit me: He was using our dumpster.
On another evening, I walked into the kitchen for a drink of water and the commotion of a dozen people outside our back door caught my attention. The novitiate house was on an open property of more than 100 acres. Behind the house was a long, narrow lake that was about the size of a football field, only half as wide. Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts had gathered on the other side, preparing for a future camping trip by practicing setting up and tearing down their tents. A couple of my brothers, including our novice master, were grumbling about how the scouts had just showed up in our yard without asking or even letting us know what they were doing. “It’s just something you have to get used to to” they said with derision, “people just show up like its a public park.” Families and individuals will come and fish for hours just a stone’s throw from our back deck, in the winter they’ll bring their sleds right up to the deck and no one gives any attention to the several signs posting “Private Property” and “No Fishing.”
The renunciation of ownership means that it was not private property, nor was it our dumpster. We have been given the responsibility of care and stewardship over things. If someone wanted to drive four-wheelers, leaving tracks and making muddy trails, or throw a large party leaving beer bottles and trash lying everywhere, or illegally throw hazardous waste into the dumpster, then it would certainly be our place to say something and prevent misuse. Scouts setting up tents because they need a large and open area, families spending an afternoon together, a man practicing his golf swing, or teenagers tossing around the frisbee are doing nothing harmful. But it was through us, by generous gifts to the Order that God was providing such a place for people to go and spend time together—a far better thing to do than playing video games or texting on the couch. The renunciation of ownership is nothing more than recognizing and trying to live out that fundamental truth: all things exist for God’s Kingdom and all things belong to the Creator of the Foundations of the World. And at the end of this path, we may even come to realize and see that it is not even my life that I have been given, but a life that I may give.
. . .WILL CONTINUE WITH PT. 2