Minimalism – Why Jesus Youth love it?

“Four sons I have, and the second one is a JY. About him I was worried, thinking, he was careless in money matters. Unlike his brothers, he is not eager to buy many things and his home is quite simple and bare. But now I see his point. His life is not cluttered, but he is focused, quite loving and very happy. Perhaps that looks much better.”

Many active Jesus Youth are ‘minimalists with a mission’. What is minimalism? It is an attempt to live with the essential things you need and giving up what distracts you. Very often such a life has a clear focus. This results in a greater freedom and enjoyment of the little things in life.

Less is more

Is it being miserly, not spending money for your real needs? No – the lifestyle of minimalism is all about the simplicity of living, as well as the joy in giving.  Joy and generosity are at the heart of it.

“Nowadays, many who take life seriously are adopting this slogan, ‘Less is more’. For them this is a reaction against a decadent culture of blindly following a ‘use and throw’ lifestyle.” One active Jesus Youth shared his thoughts with me. “But in my case, I became a minimalist not as a reaction. My Christ Encounter turned my values upside down. Earlier it was a ‘successful life’, but now a ‘life of joy in Christ’. And now I have started seeing others’ needs. So, for me, not only ‘less is more’, but ‘it is more blessed to give’ and experience that joy.”

One thing special about Jesus Youth movement is that in all generations of its growth there have been outstanding models of minimalism. Fr Abraham, one of its pioneers, often challenged youth. He would ask, ‘What does the Bible teach about giving? How much?” They often reply by talking about ‘tithing’. No! He would say. That is the Old Testament teaching. Even John the Baptist talks about giving 50 percent, “if you have two coats, give away one”. But Jesus challenges us to give fully, “if you want to follow me, sell everything, give to the poor and follow me”. He would conclude, “we are only custodians of the Lord’s gifts; those who are in need are the real owners.”

Another challenging person in the movement has been Alicekutty, who has been animating the movement from the beginning. While working as a professor she would say, ‘my income is for those in need’ and would support others generously after meeting her meagre needs. She always lived in a simple home, but that too was always shared by a few others. Those are early examples, but over the years the movement has produced many, committed to a life of simplicity and who have found joy in giving.

According to Pope Francis: “We need to take up an ancient lesson, . . . the conviction that “less is more”. A constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment. . . Christian spirituality proposes a growth marked by moderation and the capacity to be happy with little.” (Laudato Si’, 222)

A true Christian culture

A life of minimalism in the sense of not being enchanted by material goods and slowly turning away from luxuries of life is a true sign of Christian commitment. As Apostle Paul remarks, those who desire to be rich fall into ruin and destruction, because ‘the love of money is the root of all evils’ (1Tim 6:9,10). He speaks of a life of extreme simplicity in which “if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (v. 8). One reason for this being that Jesus his master was a very poor man with “no place to lay is head” (Mt 8:20) and challenged his disciples to be poor, exhorting them towards simple living.

For a Jesus Youth the example of St Francis has been another challenge not just for the love of beauty and the joy of life, but more so for simple living. Young Francis from the year 1208 devoted himself to a life of utter poverty and proclamation of the Gospel. His example shocked, yet inspired people of all walks of life in his generation and continues to challenge young and old of contemporary times to embrace a life of moderation.

Minimalism is integral to JY lifestyle

Jesus had some special instructions for his disciples sent on mission: “Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, no two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff” (Mt 10: 9,10). In brief, a missionary must travel light.

We live in a consumeristic world in which needs are fast increasing and new products are constantly appearing. It is natural that people want to gather more and more. But here is a ‘sign of contradiction’ in which people opt to buy only the essentials and even give away what they already have. This in turn builds up a caring and sharing community and help one to turn attention a little more to the poor and needy.

Three years ago, a couple of Jesus Youth from Kuwait had a brief discussion in which they said, ‘Most of our families have a lot of dresses in very good condition that we surely can spare. We can ask others also. If only we had a way to collect and reach them to people who really need that.” That was the beginning of a new initiative, JY Dress Collection Mission. This helped families to ask themselves what they can give away and also creating a mechanism to collect and send dresses to the needy. As of now more than ten thousand kilograms of dress have already been collected and put to good use.  A spirit and style of minimalism has evoked so many such small and big steps in the movement. Surely much more is on the way.

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