Thursday, October 29, 2009


A great essay from EpiscopalCafe:

Anglo-Catholicism: what the heck is it?
By Derek Olsen

Thinking and arguing about Anglican identity is new territory for some. Not me. Every since I’ve become an Anglican almost a decade ago, the question of identity has been intertwined with my Anglicanism. And with good reason—I identify with the most fractious and tribal of the great Anglican traditions, Anglo-Catholicism.

Since the beginning of the Twentieth century, Anglicanism has been described as a threefold cord consisting of three distinct parties, the Evangelicals, the Broad-Church, and the Anglo-Catholics. As if negotiating these positions weren’t difficult enough, Anglo-Catholicism has been in a tough spot since the ‘60s. The theological and liturgical changes of Vatican II combined with the movement for women’s ordination were a one-two punch that rocked the movement. The emergence of women’s ordination brought the matter to a head in the early 70’s in the Episcopal Church, calving the movement into several major branches, some remaining within the Episcopal Church, others leaving for the Anglican Continuum consisting of other Anglican entities not in The Episcopal Church.

At the root of the problem is identity: what does it mean to be a catholic Anglican? For some outside the movement or on its fringes the answer seems simple, it’s about liturgical ceremonial. If you wear a chasuble, know what a cope is, swing around incense, and chant, you must be Anglo-Catholic.

Trust me, it’s not that simple.

As any Anglo-Catholic in good standing will tell you, it’s not about the externals. Or, rather, the externals are driven by the internals. As I’ve said before, we don’t do a solemn high mass or use incense because we like it (though we do, of course…) but because of what it communicates about who and what God is and who we are in light of that reality. It’s about theology. And our theological commitments come with liturgical implications. Defining that theology is what drives us crazy.

One simplistic definition is that catholic Anglicans hold the doctrine of the Undivided Church (those things that the Orthodox East and the Catholic West agree about) but hold different discipline. That is, our faith is the same but our principles of church order are different. But defining what is doctrine and what is discipline, and deciding who gets to be the final arbiter is what’s been giving us fits since the ‘60s.

I’ve said in jest that the true definition of an Anglo-Catholic is a person who knows three other people who think they’re catholic Anglicans but who aren’t because they’re either not “catholic” or not “Anglican” enough.

The most obvious and polarizing argument is over women’s ordination—is it doctrine or discipline? The major divisions in the party have been over this issue, but a host of others complicate even agreements on that point. Which way to lean in matters of faith and morals: towards the Orthodoxen or towards Rome? What liturgy to use: the ’28 BCP, the ’79 BCP, or the (Anglican or American or English) Missal? What ceremonial to use: pre- or post-Vatican II? And so I say, matters of Anglican identity have never been far from my mind lo these years.As I survey the current squabbling and bickering amongst the worldwide Anglican Communion and especially here in the Episcopal Church, I find myself in familiar territory. Out of that familiarity, I return to one of the positions that I’ve found the most helpful. It’s not strictly about doctrine or about discipline but about practice. The most succinct expression that I’ve found comes not from a committee or report, but a book on spirituality written by the English Anglo-Catholic Martin Thornton. In writing about the monastic father St. Benedict and his impact upon English spirituality he says:

The greatest Benedictine achievement (from this point of view) is the final consolidation of the threefold Rule of prayer which is absolutely fundamental to all Catholic spirituality: the common Office (opus dei) supporting private prayer (orationes peculiares) both of which are allied to, and consummated by, the Mass. . . . Here is the basic Rule of the Church which, varying in detail, is common to East and West, monastic and secular, to all the individual schools without exception, and which forms the over-all structure of the Book of Common Prayer. Amongst all the tests of Catholicity or orthodoxy, it is curious that this infallible and living test is so seldom applied. We write and argue endlessly about the apostolic tradition, about episcopacy, sacramentalism, creeds, doctrine, the Bible—all very important things—yet we fail to see that no group of Christians is true to orthodoxy if it fails to live by this Rule of trinity-in-unity: Mass-Office-devotion. (Martin Thornton, English Spirituality, 76)

It’s a position that certainly doesn’t answer all problems or arguments—and Thornton admits as much—but in this statement, I find the heart of the matter expressed more simply and clearly than in any bishops’ statement.

At the end of the day the question isn’t whether we are “authentic” Anglo-Catholics or Anglicans. The question is whether we are authentic Christians seeking to pattern our lives according to an Anglican shape that proceeds from catholic and orthodox roots. Yes, we do need to argue whether women are valid sacramental matter for the priesthood (and I argue they are); yes, we need to argue whether queer folk in relationships are appropriate leaders for our church communities (and I argue that it’s about the relationships not the folk and applies equally to us straight people…); yes, we need to argue about how to interpret and apply the Scriptures (and I argue without a formal or de facto magisterium). More fundamental than these, however, we need to agree and be united in a common Anglican way of life.

It used to be said—and I’ve heard it many times both before and after my move to the Episcopal Church—that rather than confessional documents we have the Book of Common Prayer. Despite the history and legacy of colonialism and its aftermath, the one thing that all Anglicans hold is a Book of Common Prayer—none identical across the provinces, but all rooted in common precedents, all embodying the fundamental principles of Eucharist, the Daily Office, and personal prayer.

Can we live up to, is there any point in, a new Anglican Covenant if we don’t bother to live up to or have regard for the more basic Anglican covenant that sits in our pews? On the other hand, it’s terrific to call ourselves Anglicans or Episcopalians, but do our daily and weekly habits reflect that reality—or display some other truth?

Yes, let’s navel-gaze. But more important, let’s pray. And let’s live our praying. Don’t just argue about being an Anglican; act like one.

Derek Olsen is in the final stretch of completing a Ph.D. in New Testament at Emory University. He has taught seminary courses in biblical studies, preaching, and liturgics; he currently resides in Maryland. His reflections on life, liturgical spirituality, and being a Gen-X/Y dad appear at Haligweorc.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

21 Pentecost

October 25, 2009

Mark 10.46-52

This morning, in our Gospel, we find a little gem. This story at first seems to be leading us in one direction. We find Jesus at Jericho, which reminds us, of course, of the story from Joshua of the crumbling walls. We then find this strangely detailed story of Barthemaeus. It’s detailed in the sense that we not only have his name, but also the fact that he was the sons of Timaeus. And that he is blind. We know where this story is going. We know he’s going to be healed. We know he is going to see.

But the real gem of this story doesn’t have to do with Jericho, or the fact that we will never again hear about Bartimeus son of Timaeus. The real gem of this story is that little prayer Bartimaeus prays. There it is, huddled down within the Gospel like a wonderful little treasure.

“Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!”

At first, it doesn’t seem like much. It’s so deceptively simple. But, obviously, according to the story, the prayer is important. Jesus does what he is asked. He has mercy on the man and heals him.

So why is this prayer so important? Well, for one thing, we get a glimpse of how to pray in this wonderfully simple little prayer. Jesus occasionally gives us advice in the gospels on how we should pray. The first one that probably comes to mind probably is the Lord’s Prayer. But here we find a prayer very different than the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer is very structured. It covers all the bases. We acknowledge and adore God, we acknowledge and ask forgiveness not only for our sins, but for the sins committed against us by others. And so on. You know the prayer.

The prayer we heard this morning cuts right to very heart not only of the Lord’s prayer but to every prayer we pray. It is a prayer that rises from within—from our very core. From our heart of hearts. The words of this prayer are the words of all those nameless, formless prayers we pray all the time—those prayers that we find ourselves longing to pray. Here it is, summed up for us. Here are the words we long to use in those prayers without words.

“Jesus, have mercy on me!”

Now this prayer sounds very familiar especially to those of who have prayed what is commonly called the “Jesus prayer.”

“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Or whatever other variations of that prayer one might use.

The prayer we heard this morning is essentially the same. The “Jesus Prayer” it is also called “the prayer of the heart.” That’s a perfect description of the prayer we heard in today’s Gospel. It is a prayer of the heart. If our lips could no longer pray, our heart would go on and this prayer would be the words of our heart. The fact that it is so simple is what makes the Jesus prayer so popular. Anyone can memorize it and anyone pray it with true meaning. It is a prayer we can repeat to ourselves over and over again. In fact, it is a prayer that demands to be repeated. It’s almost impossible not to repeat it.

When I was telling a friend of mine about this prayer once, she said to me, “Doesn’t Jesus say in Matthew that one shouldn’t be vainly repeating a prayer over and over again like the heathen do?”

Emily Gardner Neal, one of my favorite Episcopal writers, explains why this kind of prayer is all right to pray over and over again.

“The answer to this must be that the repetition in this prayer is not in vain,”[1] she says. The prayer of the heathen is a meaningless prayer and it is prayed simply to “wrack up points,” so to speak. Neal says that for the Christian, repeating this prayer is not meaningless, but rather by the repeating the prayer one “evokes and expresses the faith in [one’s] heart.”[2]

She goes on to say, “In each such repetition, the words may be the same, but never twice identical, for their meaning is inexhaustible. Your intent and your emphases shift and change.”[3]

So, no matter how many times we pray this prayer, we will never pray the same prayer twice. If it truly comes from our heart, then the prayer will be meaningful to us in that one moment.

Emily Gardner Neal goes on to say, “Perhaps because it contains the spirit and hence the power of all prayer, it not only limitless in its scope, but infinite in its use.”

What I find so interesting about that statement is that, limitless as this prayer might be, infinite in its use as it might be, it comes from and addresses our very own limitations. It is the prayer of absolute humility.

“Have mercy on me.”

We are humans, with all the limitations and shortcomings that entails. But rather than groaning about it and bewailing our misfortune, in this prayer we are able to acknowledge it and to simply offer it up. Like Bartimeaus, we can simply bring it before Jesus, release it, and then walk away healed. There is no room for haughtiness when praying this prayer. The person we are when we pray it is who we really are. When all our masks and all our defenses are gone, that is when this prayer comes in and takes over for us. This is the prayer we pray when, echoing Thomas Merton, we “present ourselves naked before our God.”

That’s what makes the prayer of the heart—the Jesus prayer—such a popular prayer for so many. There is a wonderful book from the Russian Orthodox tradition called The Way of the Pilgrim. It is the story of a man who travels about Russia, visiting churches and holy places. As he goes, he prays the Jesus prayer repeatedly and meets others who are also praying the prayer. As he travels, he observes how this kind of praying has transformed the lives of these people. When all else fails in their lives, they were able to remain steadfast in their faith by reciting the prayer. He also discovers that the prayer is especially useful in those dry moments in our spiritual lives. When it seems that God is absent or simply not listening, being faithful in the praying of the Jesus prayer somehow gets us through. Certainly, I find this kind of praying helpful in my own life. When I have suffered with various illnesses, both physical and otherwise, in those moments when I just can’t quite articulate exactly what to pray for, I have found a huge comfort in praying the Jesus prayer. While the rest of my life sometimes seems to crumble into chaos, I am often able to find a calm oasis in the middle of it all by praying the Jesus prayer quietly to myself. To be honest, sometimes it all that I can pray. All I am sometimes capable of in some of those difficult moments is repeating to myself, Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.

I have heard other stories as well of people for whom the Jesus prayer has made all the difference in the world. It has also been helpful in praying for others as well. How easy it is to simply pray:

Jesus, have mercy on her, or him, or them.

It’s wonderful isn’t how those simple words can pack such a wallop. We don’t have to be profound or eloquent in the words we address to God. We don’t need to go on and on beseeching and petitioning God. We simply need to open our hearts to God and the words will come. No doubt those words will be very similar to the words of the Jesus prayer.

So, like Bartemeaus, let us pray what is in our heart—let us open ourselves completely and humbly to Jesus. And when we do we will find the blindness’s of our own lives—that spiritual blindness that causes us to grope about aimlessly—taken from us and, with a clear spiritual vision granted to us, we too will follow him on the way.

[1] Neal, Emily Gardner. In the Midst of Life. 1963. Morehouse-Barlow. New York.
[2] ibid
[3] ibid.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

20 Pentecost

Jubilee Sunday
October 18, 2009

Mark 10:35-45

We’ve all known people like them, haven’t we? We have all had our own Jameses and Johns. We’ve all had them as co-workers, or fellow students, or simply fellow parishioners. They are the ones who—while we quietly labor, quietly do our duties—they sort of weasel their way up the ladder. They are the ones who try to get a better place in line. They are the ones who drive us—who work and sacrifice and try to do the good thing—they drive us crazy.

Or maybe…and maybe none of us want to admit it …maybe, they are the ones that we relate to the most in this morning’s Gospel. Maybe we are ourselves at times are the James and the Johns. Maybe we ourselves are the Sons or Daughters of Thunder.

Whatever the case may be, the fact is James and John are really missing out. Like some of the other apostles, they just don’t get it. They don’t quite understand what Jesus is getting at when he is talking about the last being first. They don’t understand him when he says that we are called to serve and not be served. They just don’t understand that simple virtue of humility. Their view of Christianity—their view of where they stand in relation to Jesus—is a constant jockeying for position. And many of us to this day feel the same way in our own lives, in our work and in our faith lives.

But what today’s Gospel shows us is that Jesus is calling us to something much bigger than we probably fully understand. I think a lot of us—even those of us who come to church every Sunday—sometimes look at Christianity as a somewhat quaint, peace-loving religion. We dress up, we come to church on Sunday, we sing hymns, we hear about God’s love, and then we go home and…and we don’t think about it again until the next week.

But the Christianity of Jesus is not just a whitewashed, quaint religion. The Christianity of Jesus, as we hopefully have all figured out here at St. Stephen’s, is a radical faith. It is a faith that challenges—that makes us uncomfortable when we get comfortable, that riles us when we have become complacent. It is a faith that works well here in church, on Sunday morning, but also should motivate us to get up from these pews and go out into the world and live out the faith we have learned here.

And it is this fact that many of us might find a bit frightening. Like James and John, we all want to gain heaven. We want a nice place beside Jesus in that world-to-come. But few of us want to live out our faith in all that do and say. And even fewer of us are ready to be servants—to be slaves for others.

We don’t always want to serve the lowliest among us. We don’t want to suffer like Jesus suffered. We don’t want to taste from the same cup of anguish that Jesus drank from on the night before he was murdered. And we sure don’t want to be humble sometimes.

I will admit, I am in this boat sometimes. I sometimes don’t want to be a servant or slave to others. I don’t want to suffer like Jesus suffered. And although I might try—and not always that hard—I am not so good at being humble sometimes. But we all, I think, at least here at St. Stephen’s, are trying. We all making the effort in some way.

Today of course is Jubilee Sunday. On this Sunday we are reminded that we as Christians are called truly to be servants to each other and especially tot hose who need to be served. We are asked on this Sunday to do something uncomfortable. We are to asked to take a long, hard look at the world around us and to recognize the fact that there are people living in poverty in our midst.

That’s not easy to do. Most of us are comfortable in our lives. We have worked long and hard to build up financial security for ourselves and our families. Which is a very good thing to do. But in our comfortable lives, it is important that we look around us and realize not everyone has had the same breaks we have had. Not everyone has had the privilege of being born in a country where we have what we have. Not everyone lives in the same comfortable ways we do. But to remain silent in the face of that reality is say we are not followers of Jesus.

Now I’ll be honest: I don’t want to think about the outstanding poverty that exists in this world. When I do, I realize how overwhelming it is. I realize how frightening it is. And, probably most importantly, I realize how powerless I am in the face of that poverty. When I ignore those in need, when I don’t serve, when I don’t stand up against injustice—I am made very aware that in that moment, I am not following Jesus. If I don’t do those things, but I still stand up here and call myself a Christian, then I have truly become a “Son of Thunder.”

And, for most of us, that is exactly what it sounds like when we want the benefits of our faith, without making the sacrifices of our faith.

In those instances, we truly do sound like a low, distant thunder. We cannot bulldoze our way into heaven by riding roughshod over those we should be serving along the way. We seem to have forgotten this virtue of humility in our Church and in our society. We rarely hear anyone preaching about it. Certainly we don’t hear humility mentioned in the mass media, nor do we see our movie stars, our politicians or our church leaders speaking of it, much less living it out in their own lives.

But Jesus, especially in today’s Gospel, pays much attention to it. After all, who could give a better example of humility than Jesus? In a very clear way, he was the purest example of humility. When we call him the Lamb of God, we are not using this title as a sweet, comforting symbol nor are using it as victorious symbol of triumph. Jesus as Lamb of God is a symbol of absolute humility—one who willingly came to us and laid down his life—like a quiet humble lamb—as a sacrifice.

Now, of course, when we talk about humility, we need to be clear: we are not talking about humiliation. Jesus is not expecting us to be humiliated or to humiliate ourselves. We don’t have to beat ourselves raw if we fail or do something wrong.

He is simply saying to us, love God and love your neighbor as yourself—and when we do, in our lives, in our work, in the way we perceive the world around us, then a natural humility will come over us. In those moments, we will recognize that God is in control. Not us. What is more humbling than that realization in our lives?

Again, here is another example of this radical Christianity. It carries through in how we serve each other. Christians are not expected to bring anyone to Christ through an arrogant attitude. We are not expected to come charging into people’s lives, making them tremble before us in fear. We are not expected to thump our Bibles and wave the Words of Jesus before people in a desperate attempt to win souls for Christ. We aren’t forcing Christ on anyone, nor should we. In doing so, we dominate people. We coerce them into believing.

But if we simply serve those Christ calls us to serve, with love and charity and humility, sometimes that says more than any Sunday sermon or curbside rant. Think of the words Jesus could use. He could use, “power” to mean “dominance,” or “oppression” or “force.” But he doesn’t. Rather, Jesus uses the words “serve” and “servant”

Certainly we are given plenty of “power” as Christians. In our baptism, we are given power—but this power we are given is the power to die in Christ and to be raised into a new life with Christ. That is what we celebrate every time we renew our baptismal vows. That is what we celebrate when we think back to what happened at our own baptisms. We celebrate and we live out in our lives this power—this power that we are dead to our former selves and alive—alive in a powerful and amazing way—with Christ. Baptism empowers us—it makes us something more than we were before—but not in the way we think of empowering. It empowers us by making us true servants to each other.

We who share in the Body and Blood of Christ here at this altar are given a strength unlike any other in the world. But it not a strength that overpowers others. It is a strength rather that empowers us to serve each other and God. The cup and the bread we share here at the altar strengthens us to be true servants in the world. It strengthens us to bear the anguish and despair of this life. It strengthens us to persevere and to live our lives fully in Christ.

In all of this, Jesus is telling us that we are to be servants—servants not only to God, but to each other as well. I, as a priest, who stands here at this altar at each celebration of the Eucharist —I am not the only called to be a minister of God. We are all called to be ministers of God. By our very baptism, by the Eucharist we share at this altar each Sunday, we are called by God to serve each other.

We are not here on Sunday morning to be served—to be waited upon, to be lavished with gifts. We are here to serve. And it is this sense of service that we must take with us out of here into the world.

James and John eventually figured this out. They went on from that day and served Christ in the world. Eventually , they would both die for Christ as martyrs—as very witnesses to Christ by their deaths.

So, for those of us who get angry at the sons of thunder in our lives—be patient. For those of who recognize ourselves as a son or daughter of thunder—relax. Christ finds a way to break through our barriers. It is this breaking through, after all, that makes our Christianity so radical. So, serve God. Serve each other in whatever ways God leads you to serve.

Today, after this Eucharist, at coffee hour, Stand up. Take a stand against poverty. And in doing so, remember that you are empowered in ways in which you might not even have been fully aware. By the very fact that you are baptized and fed with Christ’s Body and Blood, live out your service in the world. And when you do, you just may find that the thunder you hear is the thunder not of arrogance or pride, but rather the thunder of the kingdom of God breaking through into our midst.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

19 Pentecost

October 11, 2009

Mark 10.17-31
Did you listen closely to this morning’s Gospel? Were you as uncomfortable as I was hearing it? You should be uncomfortable. We all should be uncomfortable when we hear it. Because Jesus is, quite plainly, pulling out the stops for all of us. Jesus is, quite simply, telling it like it is. It is a disturbing message—at least, on the surface. I stress that: on the surface. He makes three hard-hitting points.

First, he tells the rich man who calls Jesus “good” to sell everything he has and give the money to the poor. Second, he compares wealthy people getting into heaven to a camel going through the eye of a needle—a great image really when you think about it. Finally, he tells his disciples that only those who give up their families and their possessions will gain heaven, summarizing it in that all-too-famous maxim: “the first will be last and the last will be first.”

For those who have—who have possessions, who have loved ones, who have nice cars and houses and bank accounts and investments,--these words of Jesus should disturb us and should make us look long and hard at what we have and,
more importantly, why we have them. But what does it mean? Does it mean that we should rid ourselves of those things? Should we really sell our cars and our houses, empty out our bank accounts and our savings and give all of that money to the poor? Does it mean, we should turn our backs on our families, on our spouses and partners, on our children and our parents? If it does, it gives a whole new meaning to “Christian Family Values” does it? Does it mean that we should go poor and naked into the world?

The fact is, I don’t think Jesus is telling us to do any of that. What Jesus is talking about here is attachment. Or more specifically, unhealthy attachments. Having “things” in and of themselves are, for the most part, fine, as long as we are not attached to them in an unhealthy way. Jesus knew full well that we need certain things to help us live our lives. But being attached to those “things” is a problem. It is our attachments in this life that bind us—that tie us down and prevent us from growing, from moving closer to God. Unhealthy attachments are what Jesus is getting at here. And this is why we should be disturbed. Let’s face, at times, we’re all attached to those things we have. We are attached to our cars and our homes. We are attached to our televisions and computers and our telephones.

And, even in our relationships, we have formed unhealthy attachments as well. We often hear about co-dependence in relationships—that unhealthy kind of attachment that develops between people. We see co-dependent in relationships that are violent or abusive. People, in a sense, become attached to each other and simply cannot see what life can be like outside of that relationship. And as much as we love our children, we all know that there comes a point when we have to let them go.

We have to break whatever attachments we have to them so they can live their lives fully. It is seems to be part of our nature to form unhealthy relationships with others at times. Especially in this day and age, we hear so often of people who are afraid to be alone. So many people are out there looking for that “the right one”—as though this one person is going to bring unending happiness and contentment to one’s life. Some people might even be attached to the idea of a relationship, rather than the relationship itself. We’ve all known people like that—people who are afraid because they are getting too old to settle down and still haven’t found that right person in their lives.

It seems almost as though their lives revolve around finding this ideal person when, in fact, no one can live up that ideal. See, attachments start taking on the feeling of a heavy baggage after so long. They do get in the way. They weigh us down and they ultimately make our life a burden.

For several years in my twenties, I studied Zen Buddhism. It was a fascinating religion to study because in many ways, it is very similar to our own. What was especially interesting was how closely related some of the sayings by the Zen Masters were to the sayings of Jesus. One of the most important aspects of Zen Buddhism is its emphasis on ridding oneself of attachments—of cutting ties in one’s life. Attachments in Zen are viewed as one of the roots of unhappiness. After all, attachments bind us and, in some ways, control us. In Zen, the image one should use is that of a cloud—floating around without any attachments. That image is the ideal for Zen Buddhism, because it is the image of true freedom—freedom to practice Zen mediation and freedom, when the times comes, to die without attachments. As wonderful as that may sound to some of us, it isn’t very plausible.

The question we need to ask ourselves in response to this morning’s Gospel is this: if Jesus came to us today and told us to abandon everything we have right here and right now, and follow him, would we? If Jesus asked us to abandon our families, our friends, our cars, our bank accounts, the way of life we have become accustomed to—would we? Or more importantly, could we?

The fact is, Jesus isn’t going to call us in such a way. But what the Gospel for today hopefully shows us that we need to be aware of our attachments. We need to be aware that, one day, Jesus, will in fact, call us to himself.

One day, Jesus will take us to himself. And on that day, we will ultimately break all of our unhealthy attachments, whether we want to or not. And this is what Jesus, I think, is preparing us for. Jesus is preparing us for the Kingdom of Heaven, for that place in which everything we hold dear here on earth—along with all our sorrows and fears and frustrations—simply pass away.

The message is clear—don’t allow your unhealthy attachments to come between God and you. Don’t allow anything to come between God and you. If Jesus came to us here and now and asked us to give away everything and follow him, most of us couldn’t to do it. I don’t think I could do it. And when we realize that, we suddenly realize how hard it is to gain heaven. It truly is like a camel passing through the eye of the needle. But the day will come when everything we have will pass from us.

We all know the old saying, “we can’t take it with us.” And we can’t. That money we saved over the years isn’t coming with us when Jesus calls us. That car, that house, that bank account is staying here when we finally shed everything and moved into the nearer presence of God. Even these bodies that we obsess over, that we stress over, that we despair over when they start growing old and start aching—even the attachment we have to this body will be broken.

For us, in this moment, this might be a reason to despair. But the fact is, how else can we come before God? How else can we truly and wholly appear before God, except naked and poor, trusting completely in the God who gave us all that we had in the first place. When we get to where we’re going, we go with a trust like we have never known before. We go with that trust that God will give us more than we could even ask for in that new life with God.

This is what Jesus is getting at in today’s Gospel. So, enjoy those “things” you have. Take pleasure in them. But recognize them for what they are. They are only temporary joys. They come into in your life and they will go out of your life, sort of like that Zen cloud. All those things you hold dear, will pass away from you. Cling instead, to God and to the healthy bonds that you’ve formed with God and with your loved ones—with your spouse or partner, your children, your family and your friends. Make the attempt to see that what you have is temporary. Be prepared to shed every attachment you have if you need to. And when the day comes when Jesus calls you by your name, you can simply run to him and follow him wherever he leads you.

3 Pentecost

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