Lent as the Cure for Greed Addiction
I would never have thought of myself as greedy. It’s just not who I am — to myself.
Yes, I do like good food and comfort food, and, well, as I’ve grown older the spectre of gout and that increasingly stubborn spare tyre has led me to a more considered temperance in my lifestyle. I don’t describe myself as greedy.
During one of the evening services in our incredible parish mission, led by Frs Russell Pollitt SJ and Larry Kaufmann CSsR, we were asked to use one word to define our sinfulness. Out of the blue, it struck me that my one defining sinful attitude was, in fact, greed. It wasn’t selfishness or lack of prayer or anger — things that are easier to deal with in a sense — but greed! You could have floored me.
This has become a point of extended reflection for me. As we go on the Lenten journey, this “greed lens” has become a powerful viewpoint for me — and I’m struck at how many places in my life are greed-points.
When it comes to food, you get two types of clergy. Those who eat without end, hoard and store, and those who hardly eat. As a parish priest, eating is a problem. Time often runs away and I do get invited to meals where I have to eat carefully — I mustn’t overdo it. That’s difficult because families go to huge efforts in preparing the meal — you don’t just get fishfingers.
On the other hand, often in my house there isn’t more than yoghurt and eggs and crackers — and, as in every presbytery, more condiment variety than you thought possible. I even have the family problem of two open bottles of ketchup. Yet, there is a greed here…a greed borne of fear! There is never not going to be food, yet this is still a fear — and fear breeds greed.
By far the biggest greed-point in my life is the greed for experience. Call it thrill-seeking or the thirst for an adrenalin rush, this is a huge greed-point for many of us — we just can’t get enough. This greed for me is shown particularly in the use of social media. I am seldom without a phone or tablet, and I have to face that this greed is almost an addiction.
I have done a Lent without social media, but in honesty I am not sure I could do that again. So much of the parish communications are on social media now — and my addiction (or greed) is that strong.
We easily become caught up in a never-ending search for the experience, a complete experience, a managed experience.
From the way that we plan our marriages and the wedding extravaganzas to the way that we cook and entertain to the unrestrained use of media. Our TVs are huge (I’ve just had to replace mine after a lightning strike), we cant just go on holiday to Margate anymore — exotic and spectacular have become our norms.
If we consider the greed escalation that has become the norm in the world, our country — especially our government — our own voraciousness, we can then understand that all that we have left in a dog-eat-dog world is a lot of corpses and a few fat alpha dogs/persons/countries/corporations.
Where does this leave us? Greed has an incest-related first cousin…selfishness. As the selfishness grows to become a cultural definition point, we all get swallowed into this dysfunctional family.
Lent is a perfect antidote to this selfishness and greed. Prayer re-centres my universe on Christ. Fasting checks the greed and almsgiving allows us to reach beyond ourselves so that we are rescued from the pit we find ourselves in.