Holding On To What Is Really Important
by Peter Lynch
Joseph decided to go for a little walk along the cliffs to watch the sunset. As he was taking in the marvelous scene from the edge, the ground gave way and he began to fall. He fell a short way before he caught on to a small tree growing out from the side of the cliff. Thinking that this would not hold him very long, he began to call out for help. After a short while he knew there was no one around to hear him. So, in a moment of desperation he called out to God for help. Immediately he heard a voice tell him, "Let go." He thought he must have heard wrong, so he gripped the little tree tighter and called out again for the Lord. Again the voice came to him softly saying, "I am here, Joseph. Let go." "Lord," he said, "I need your help! If I let go I will fall! Help me! Save me!" And the voice of the Lord came to him again, "Joseph, let go." Joseph hung there for a little while not knowing what to do. He finally said again, "Lord?" The voice answered softly again, "Yes, Joseph. Trust in me. Let go." Joseph’s heart was subdued, so he closed his eyes and let go of the little tree. With a gasp he fell¼six inches. He found that he was standing on a wide ledge that sloped back up to the top. With head down, hands in his pockets he walked up the slope. From the top he saw the last of the sunset. Another, small, everyday miracle. He shook his head at himself, and grinned up to God with a tear in his eye asking, "Why is it so hard to believe and trust you? To let go in order to hold on to you?"
Many times, as we plead to the Lord for an intention, we already have in mind how we expect it to be fulfilled. We often forget that God has a better vision on what is around us, and what we truly need. Often we are focused on what is immediate to us and it is difficult to give ourselves over to the universal vision that God has. There is a whole world out there that God wants us to enter into, but we, like Joseph, can get "hung up" on what we are holding on to. The things of this world that we hold on to can distract us from God’s fuller plan, and if we hold tight enough these things can keep us from going anywhere. To let go of them is to make great strides in growing in the spiritual life, when we can someday truly say with all our hearts "My God and my All!"
Lent is a time when we can make these great strides in growth. What is the main purpose for our lives as Christians? Simply, to live the Life of Christ. This means that we, who bear the presence of Christ within us by Baptism, carry on his presence and mission in the world until he comes again. How do we do this? We always have Christ as our model, he who came to do the Father’s will. We can know Christ through prayer, which is to strive for deeper communion with him who has made his dwelling within us. We can also take a hint from St. Jerome who said that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. In making a personal response to God’s invitation to this life, we bear the responsibility to find what this life of Christ is all about. We can daily dedicate a short time to reading and praying over the Scriptures to know Jesus, and how he dealt with different problems when they arose.
In Lent, we can begin with the forty days Jesus spent in the desert and the temptations he had to endure. For us, these days are a time of purification, a time, like for Joseph above, to let go of the things that hold us where we are, so we may rely wholeheartedly on the Lord. We need to do this often, for we should strive to someday be able to say that there is nothing in our lives before God. If we think that we can say this already, all we need do is try to spend some time in quiet prayer. This is what Lent is about: dying to the superficiality of this world. The very word comes from an Anglo-Saxon usage meaning the season of Spring, the season of new life. As we pass through Lent, we pass on to new life. It is this world that is passing, what will remain is life with God. This life with God is the life we have already begun to live because of our baptism.
Sacrifice is a part of this dying to self. In sacrifice we can unite with Christ as his Body, and make for the sake of others that they may receive grace for conversion or perseverance. Temptations of power, material things, and self-glory, are the same temptations Jesus met with in the desert and conquered. The Gospel of Jesus Christ comes against these things head on. Fasting also helps us be more attentive to the words and will of God by not allowing the distractions of passing things. Lent is a time of cleansing oneself of those things that keep us from living the life of Christ, from that intimate personal relationship we are called to have with God. "Where our treasure is, there will your heart be also". We can translate this into the twentieth century by saying, where we have put our investments, from there we will get our returns. Have we invested in eternal life, or do we hold on to that little tree off a cliff?
Suggestions for the season: Assessing what we need, and trimming down on what we want, perhaps even give what we want to those who are in need.
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