First Reading: Colossians 3:1-11
Brothers and sisters: If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory. Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Because of these the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient. By these you too once conducted yourselves, when you lived in that way. But now you must put them all away: anger, fury, malice, slander, and obscene language out of your mouths. Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 145:2-3, 10-11, 12-13AB
The Lord is compassionate toward all his works. Every day will I bless you, and I will praise your name forever and ever. Great is the LORD and highly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable. Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD, and let your faithful ones bless you. Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom and speak of your might. Making known to men your might and the glorious splendor of your Kingdom. Your Kingdom is a Kingdom for all ages, and your dominion endures through all generations.
Gospel: Luke 6:20-26
Raising his eyes toward his disciples Jesus said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.”
You know, for as many times as our other wonderful sisters (and even myself) have reflected on the concept of worldly detachment, I still struggle. Man, do I struggle.
I hear it constantly, wisdom like "store up your treasures in heaven," and "the rich have already received their reward," and all the "woe-is-mes" and "put away your vices" from today's readings. It's convincing and convicting, every single time.
But at least as many times as I'm convicted, I forget. It slips away as I fail to fully trust. And when it comes to possessions, my unchecked selfishness slowly begins to harden my heart; I can't—or maybe more accurately, deep down, I know that I don't want to. It's almost like I'm unable to let go, just like the rich man who retreated with sadness after Jesus told him that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, he should sell all that he had, come follow Him.
I wonder sometimes why it's so difficult. Why is the pull of the truth is so much weaker than that of our unreliable emotions? In my heart, I know that advertisements and not-so-subtle branding are meant to prey on my weakness. I know that emotional passions can, and should be controlled to the best of my ability; that the anger and irritation that can take over are often irrational, that the gluttony and sloth in caving to pleasures instead of responding to responsibilities is the work of the one who wants me to fail, not the work of the One who loves me beyond measure.
But yes, the struggle is still real. Every day feels like I'm fighting some sort of losing battle against all those "woe-to-yous" that Jesus ticks off. Every day I cave too often to those vices Saint Paul tells me I should have put away a long time ago—anger, fury, malice, slander, and obscene language, among too many others.
But if I stop and think about the words that fill me with renewed conviction, then wrack me with guilt every time I subsequently let them go . . . .
If I stop—really take pause—and think hard about the nature of this God of mine who says He loves me beyond measure . . .
If I reflect long enough and quietly enough . . . I think I can see Him standing by me, smiling with the kind of patience that only the most seasoned and serene of parents have mastered. It's the kind of telling smile offered to only the luckiest of children as they have carelessly repeatedly blundered, that lesson that they were supposedly old enough to finally understand.
It's the kind of love that can disarm my hardness of heart far better than my response of fear and trepidation to all those "woe is me" failings. And as I see my God regard me so lovingly in this light, the small voice in my heart—motivated solely by love—whispers: "The struggle is real. But His grace is stronger. Just get back up one more time and keep trying, daughter. That's all He wants. Just keep on trying."
The holy saints and apostles struggled just as much, but the one thing that set them apart was their conviction to keep coming back to the Source of All Love. Give yourself some grace and get back on your horse with me, sisters. Let's try again today.
Megan Hjelmstad is a wife, mom, writer and sometimes soldier whose real passion is equal parts faith and chocolate. You can find out more about her here.