In another of my ongoing series of posts responding to Pope Francis’ tweets, I thought I would muse a bit on this weekend’s gem, sent at 1:15 am Pacific time on Sunday, September 15:
Seeking happiness in material things is a sure way of being unhappy.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) September 15, 2013
Ironically, the text message for this tweet woke me from a deep sleep, landing in my inbox only a few hours after I had arrived home from an auction event for our Catholic Charities Diocese of Fresno. I mentioned a few weeks back that I had contacted our local Catholic Charities agency about doing some volunteer work. For the past month, I’ve been helping them with their social media efforts, so Saturday night found me at their big event, iPhone in hand, ready to capture the joy of the evening. They had a professional photographer on board, but I wanted to capture some fun candid shots to share on Facebook.
The event was beautiful! If you look at the photos, you’ll see that it was held outside amidst a lovely grove of trees. Harvest of Hope, held annually, provides support for a major amount of the work done by the incredible staff of Catholic Charities here in my home diocese. I went in what I refer to as my “uniform black dress”, something simple that I could wear with black flats while I attempted to fit in to the gala crowd. Lots of my friends were there, so along with snapping photos I got to do some extra visiting. It was a lovely evening. I snuck out before dinner since I wasn’t a ticketed guest and came home to dine on takeout teriyaki with my teenager, who only has one week left before being delivered to college. All in all, it was a blast.
Then that tweet work me up.
“Seeking happiness in material things is a sure way of being unhappy,” warned Pope Francis. His words immediately had me thinking of the gospel passage for Sunday morning. Obviously, over in Rome, Pope Francis was already pointing us via Twitter to an important theme addressed in Luke’s recounting of Christ’s three parables. I stared at my iPhone, at that tweet, and thought about all of those who’d been gathered at the Catholic Charities event, trying to compute their generous giving/support for the cause with this message that we should all be avoiding conspicuous overconsumption.
I’m sure you’ve been there before — attending a charity event for a great cause and wondering if it’s ok to have fun while supporting those in need… Events of this nature are critical for the budgets of many non-profit organizations. Unfortunately for too many of us, we forget to (or decide not to) send regular monetary donations, so charitable social events garner greatly needed financial contributions while also thanking supporters. So I’m not saying we shouldn’t have them. I’m simply reminding myself — thanks to Pope Francis — that the money I sometimes spend on “stuff” would be much better spent going directly to those who serve the poor and hungry in my community and around the world than on a twelve pack of new yoga pants.
Perhaps next time I’m headed out for one of my all-too-frequent trips to Costco, I’ll pull out my phone and reread this message. I’m looking for happiness, and I’m pretty sure it’s not for sale at Costco.