Fr. George Smiga
September 8, 2013
Jesus places some extreme demands on us in today’s gospel. Does he really expect us to hate our father and mother? Does he expect us to renounce all of our possessions? How can we live without healthy human relationships? How can we survive without a house for shelter, a car for travel, and some money in the bank to deal with unexpected crises? Why is Jesus so insistent that we renounce our relationships and our possessions?
Perhaps a story might help. A man was travelling through a desert, and he ran out of water. He realized in short order that unless he could find some, he would die. In the middle of nowhere he came across a shed. When he entered it, he found a jug of water, a pump, and a note. The note said, “Take the jug of water, pour it into the shaft of the pump to prime it, then move the lever, and you will have all the water that you need.” The man faced a decision. Should he do what the note said, pouring the water into the pump in hope of abundance of water? Or should he drink the water in the jug because he was dying of thirst? After all, he was certain that he had the water in the jug, but there was no guarantee that the pump would work. He thought for a long while and then took the jug of water and poured it into the pump. He moved the lever. Nothing. He moved the lever again. A small gurgle. He moved the lever a third time, and water began to flow. He drank all that he needed, filled his water bottles, and refilled the jug for the next traveler who might pass by.
All of this happened because the man found the freedom to give up the water that was in the jug. This story is about finding the freedom to let go. And so are Jesus’ words in today’s gospel. For Jesus understands that unless we find the freedom to let go of some of the good things in our lives, we will never be living the lives that are best for us.
Children are good. But every parent who sends off a son or daughter to college must find the freedom of letting go of the proximity of their relationship so that their child might grow. Popularity is good. But there are times when we have to let go of what our friends think of us in order to do what is right. Marriage is good. But when divorce becomes inevitable, we must find the freedom of letting go of that relationship so that our life can continue. Health is good. But when we contract a disease without a cure or begin to experience the disability of growing older, we must find the freedom to let go of our health as we once had it and to choose a new way in which to live. It is hard to let go of good things in our lives, but there are times where it is essential to do so. In those times, if we try to hold on to our children, to our marriage, to our popularity, or to our health, it will not bless us but only harm us.
That is why we must find the freedom to let go. Our faith can help us here. Jesus tells us that when we find the freedom to let go of those things of which we must put behind us, God will not forget us. God will act and lead us to a new and perhaps deeper good. That promise of Jesus is something that we must hold on to, because at times letting go of the good things in our lives seems like taking the last bit of water we have and pouring it down a dry pump. But Jesus tells us that if we let go of the good things that we must, we can become his disciples. That is good news, indeed. When we are in the presence of Christ, there is not only water but wine, not only survival but the fullness of life.