27 July 2008

On detachment, and finding the pearl of great price!

My pastor tends to give really good Sunday homilies! (His daily homilies are usually fine too, but his Sunday homilies tend to be sterling.) Last evening at the vigil Mass, Fr John had some great stuff on the gospel reading, but three things stood out for me. (I'll share two here, and save the third for another post.) The first was one of the best definitions of detachment I have ever heard. He defined it terms of, "having found a love so great that everything else falls into place." What I found so excellent about this was the way it moves right to the heart of the matter and short-circuits any attempt to define detachment in the more usual negative terms of stripping things away (not that stripping away does not have a place, mind you, but it is secondary, not primary). Detachment is seen first of all in terms of appropriate ATTACHMENT, that is, a defining or foundational relatedness. We are truly detached from "worldly things" when we have discovered and embraced this great love, when we have allowed it to embrace and ground us, and when everything we see, or have, or know, is seen, had, or known, in light of this.

The second thing was a poem Fr John finished with. Once upon a time it was found in the pocket of a confederate soldier, and was something John had read for the first time years ago. There is no doubt at all that this soldier, despite everything, had found the love which allowed all else to fall into place, and for all things to work together for good:

[[I asked God for strength, that I might achieve,
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked God for health, that I might do great things,
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy,
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men,
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life,
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for
- but everything I had hoped for.

Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among men, most richly blessed.]]

I sat there listening to this while slowly fingering my profession ring whose visible engraved motto reads, "My power is made perfect in weakness," and considering what the past years have been for me, but especially the one just coming to a close. They have come to fruition in amazing ways. As today's readings also affirmed and John Kasper (osfs) reiterated, All things do indeed work together for good for those who love (that is, by those who let themselves be loved by) God. It was a very powerful homily and I felt a special bond not only with this confederate soldier, but with all those I know who have or once embraced this as their own story as well, especially those in my parish, but also around this ever and ever-smaller world! For this and other reasons (not least the gift of a reunion that morning with two old college friends which initiates a new phase of friendship for each of us), it was an occasion of singular wonder, joy, and gratitude. Our God is indeed very good and gracious!