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October 10, 2021: Let Go

The leaves have spectacular lately.  Well, I need a couple of volunteers (small kids) and help me with something.  [I dump leaves on the sanctuary floor] Ask what are all these leaves for?   Answer: to jump in and throw around.  [Do it]


Did you know that the average life span of a leaf is 6 months?   And did you know that each leaf has sugar in it, but the weather starts getting colder the sugar can’t flow away from it, so the sugar in the leaves produces the pigments (called anthocyanin’s) which produce the great colors.  Then eventually the leaves fall off. 


These leaves are from the birch tree in front of the Parish House.  The average birch tree has 30-50 thousand leaves.  Well what happens to the tree after all the leaves are gone.   It doesn’t die.  It goes through a change so that in the spring it will have new growth again.


I can imagine some trees complaining, “I don’t like the cold.  I don’t like change.  I don’t want to let go of my leaves.”    And I can imagine some trees thinking, “OK, here we go again.  Another change.  Great.  I can hardly wait to see the new growth I will have next spring.” 


In a sense that is the same thing that can happen to us.   Change happens all the time.  Change is a part of life.  If you don’t change, you die.  


And we can complain, deny it , fight it.    We change.  We grow.   But the problem with some of us is that we don’t want to change.  We want things to always stay the same.  We can get stuck with “what we know” and we don’t want to change.  We follow a certain path and don’t want to change.  


 (Joke) It’s like the story of the man who was driving his car in a dense fog.   It was really hard to see anything.    He didn’t know if he was still on the road or not.   Suddenly he came upon another car in front of him.    I’ll just stay real close and follow him.   Well the car was turning here, turning, and going along, and then all of a sudden the car just stopped and the man crashed right into him.   Well no one was hurt, but the man comes running out and yells, “What are you doing?   Why did you stop?”      “I’m in my garage.”


This past week, I was at our annual Clergy workshop for priests and Deacons.  The presenter, Bishop Mark Seitz from El Paso Diocese updated us on presiding.  Well, I’ve always thought that I was a good presider.  I was trained well.  But the Bishop pointed out that since the updated new Mass guidelines (in 2011).  The better way to reverence the “words of institution” at the Eucharist is for me to genuflect and not just bow.  It’s good for you all to bow, if you are standing but for the presider, the correct form is genuflecting. 


Now, I could balk at that and insist, “This how I was taught and I’m not changing.”  I suspect there are some people who are locking themselves into stubborn thinking  . . . whether that is about the disagreement you have with that family member, with vaccination (as the Bishop told all of us priests at the Conference . . “Go get vaccinated.  It’s the only way we stop COVID.”)  Or with pro-choice thinking, or climate change.   


And how about you?  What are you locked into?  The young man in the gospel (who we presume is rich because it said that he had many possessions) seems locked into a way of thinking.   Now, make no mistake about it, by world standards, everyone here is rich and we probable all have many, many possessions.    Sure there are some who are incredibly rich by our standards.   But by the world standards we are the rich.  And the gospel message is tough . . . like a two edged sword mentioned the second reading from Hebrews . . . because it says we are going to have a tough time making it into heaven because we have so much.



The point of the gospel is for us to be like a tree and be able to detach, to let go.   Not to hang on to our possessions, our things.     Those things are not who we are.


(Story) It’s like the story of the old man who collected rocks.  He would polish them up and sell them.   One day he finally found the “perfect” stone.  And it was huge.   He loved it.  he cherished it.    Well, as all good stories go, one day something happened….a flood came.   He grabbed his rock and went out onto his roof.  And the water was getting higher so he had to hang onto the chimney.  Finally he had to start swimming with his big rock.  A boat came and someone reached out a hand yelled to the man to “drop the rock” and take my hand.   As time stood still, the man had to decide…..and so he let go….of the rescuer’s hand….and he drowned.   


The key is detachment.    It’s not the money or the possessions in and of themselves, but it’s the inability to let go of them.    And our “attachments” don’t even have to be material things.    Theologian Mary Reuter says, “There are three layers of attachment that need to be peeled back sequentially, like an onion.   You take one off, then another layer.  She says, we need to become detached 


First: from material gain (Don’t add, replace)

Second, from self-importance; ego (Do you need to always look good?)

Third from the urge to dominate others (Do always need to be right?)

Only through the process of stripping away these attachments, 

can we lay claim to spiritual progress.” 


It’s challenging stuff, like from Hebrews again, a two-edge sword that can penetrate your soul and spirit, your joints and marrow.   But here’s the best part, Jesus says to Peter, “If you can do that detachment, even with things as close as your possessions, your house, your family, then you will receive even greater blessing.  


It’s as simple as how much you give to charities, like our parish.   Don’t be like a tree that says, “Man again I had to let go of all my leaves?   Dang, now I’ve got nothing again.”   


Trust that in the spring new life will come.


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