12 Sept 2018: An Ascetiscism of ‘Letting Go’

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Wednesday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 1 Cor 7:25-31; Gospel Lk 6:20-26

A critique of Christianity may find today’s readings as perfect examples of spiritual placebos only meant to pacify the have-nots, to advocate complacency, to brainwash them to accept deprivations and sufferings of life like poverty, hunger, sorrows. I can only feel sorry for such a person who, in his/her prejudice, missed the whole point of Christian spirituality. Today’s readings, in fact, do not pacify but challenge, they do not advocate complacency but instill restlessness, infuse not a spirit of resignation but a spirit of resilience. They bring hope to the hopeless. The core of Christian asceticism is not of ‘giving up’ but ‘letting go’ – letting go something for that which is priceless –the Kingdom of God.

To give up something implies an inherent reluctance, while letting go of something involves joy that knows no bounds. I believe the Incarnation and the Paschal Mystery of Christ to be one of letting go and not giving up. Jesus did not give himself up but let himself go according to the will of God. The reluctance in the garden of Gethsemane was but a moment, but the journey to Golgotha was inaugurated with a kiss on his wooden alter – the cross! I doubt if the Paschal Mystery would have had any merit, had it been an act of giving up instead of a letting go.

The gospel does not instruct anyone to succumb to poverty but to find happiness in that same virtue which Jesus lived, that one might be rich in God’s kingdom. Only the strongest of heart could find happiness in hunger or poverty or hatred or insult; the faint-hearted could only excuse himself/herself with theatrics and rhetoric, resorting to logic that is unconvincing, however rational it may sound.

The first reading echoes the same message rather emphatically, cautioning all of us not to get carried away with the vicissitudes of life, but prepare oneself for that which is eternal. Weep as though we are not sad, laugh as though we are not happy, deal with material things so long we don’t get occupied with it, be loyal to one’s spouse and one’s family but always be mindful of the greater good – the Supreme Bonum – God Himself! Man’s insatiable appetite for good can only be satisfied by God. St. Augustine was right when he said “Our hearts are restless until it finds rest in you.”

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