Prayer of St. Faustina as recorded in her Diary, par. 1393
The key, I believe, to understanding Jesus’ command to renounce everything, including family, lies in the story behind Paul’s letter to Philemon concerning the slave, Onesimus, who had run away from his owner and may have stolen money or property from him. In first century Roman times when Paul was spreading the Gospel and writing his letters, slavery was acceptable. In fact, slaves outnumbered free persons and it was only by strict enforcement of the Roman law—which included death to runaways—that this situation was maintained. Paul is asking Philemon, who is Christian, to show Mercy and not only forgive Onesimus, but free him and treat him as a Christian brother, friend.
Psalm 90 asks God to, Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart. Only through wisdom of heart can we recognize our need to renounce everything so as to be free. In this light we can see how Paul’s suggestion to Philemon is intended to free both him and Onesimus.
When possessions possess us then we are trapped, in a way similar to that describe in the words from Wisdom: the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind… and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty. How often do we have to be reminded that we are “in” the world but not “of” the world? How many times do we have to be reminded that our possessions will not travel with us to the next life and that we should not allow them to possess us in this life?
There is only one possession we take to the next life. It is within our grasp but, because our senses are weighed down by the mind that has many concerns,… we find it with difficulty. What is that one thing? It is simply that special “Jesus, I trust in you,” union with God.