St. Dominic Catholic Church

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Let Go and Let God 2021-9-26 Fr. Roberto



26th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year B
Fr. Roberto Corral, OP
St. Dominic Church, Los Angeles, CA
September 26, 2021

Title: Let Go and Let God
Theme: The spiritual life is all about letting go and letting God work in our lives.
Readings: Numbers 11:25-29; James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

Once upon a time there was a man who went for a hike up in the mountains. After a few hours, he had hiked up 3,000 feet, and, at one point, as he turned the corner on a path, he had a breathtaking view of the valley 3,000 feet below. He leaned out over the edge of the cliff to get a better view, and then he noticed something strange: just a few feet below where he was standing, there was a tree growing out of the side of the cliff. He leaned forward to get a better look at the tree, and then suddenly a gust of wind knocked him off balance. Before he knew it, he fell over the side of the cliff! As he was falling, he flung out his arms in desperation and miraculously caught hold of a branch from the tree he had been looking at. So, there he was dangling three thousand feet above the valley floor holding on for dear life. He began to call out: “Help me! Can anyone hear me? Please help me!” No response. So, he cried out louder: “God, please help me. Please God, save me!” Still no response. He became desperate and yelled even louder: “Please, Lord, help me! God, save me please; I don’t want to die!” Suddenly, he heard a voice from heaven say to him: “My child, do not be afraid; I am here.” He cried out: “Praise God! Thank you, Jesus! Please, Lord, help me; I can’t hold on much longer!” Then, God said, “My child, I will save you, but you must do what I ask you to do.” He answered, “Yes, Lord, I’ll do whatever you ask! I promise I’ll go to Mass every week; I’ll pray the rosary every day, I promise, just please, God, save me!” Then God said to him: “Trust me, my child; I will take care of you. Now, my son…let go of the branch.” The young man answered, “Oh, thank you, God, yes, Lord, I’ll do whatever you…” He stopped, looked down at the valley way below him and then he thought for a moment. Finally, he yelled out: “Is there anyone else up there who can help me?”

This is a cute story, but it is also very insightful because sometimes you and I can be like that hiker. We, too, at times, want to hold on to something or someone that we mistakenly think is going to “save us” by giving us the solution to our problems, the security we seek, or the happiness or fulfillment we desire in our lives. And, whatever it might be that we are holding on to like the man in the story, God continually tells us we need to let it go and trust in him more than whatever it is we are holding on to. 

Now, it is not just bad things that God tells us to let go of, like drugs, alcohol, pornography, unhealthy relationships or other sinful behavior. God sometimes also asks us to let go of good things when we are holding on to them too tightly and making them too important in our lives; 
things like our looks, our health, our career or job, our money or possessions, our political party, our country, our family or even our Church. Whenever we hold on to any person, any institution, any ideal or any thing more than we hold on to God, we are going to end up in trouble.

To me, this is exactly what Jesus means when he says at the end of today’s Gospel, “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; if your eye causes you to sin pluck it out.” 
Obviously, our hands and feet and eyes are good and important things for us to have, and Jesus is not saying that we literally have to mutilate ourselves. But, he is purposely using this exaggerated and graphic language to make the point that we have to be willing to let go of anything – even good things – that keeps us from what he calls the “kingdom of God,” i.e., that keeps us from doing what God wants and from being who God wants us to be. Jesus is telling us today that, at times, being his disciple can involve tremendous sacrifice as we “cut off,” surrender, let go of things we think are so essential to us and our wellbeing.  

Today’s readings also bring to our attention another tendency we must let go of in order to follow the Lord: the temptation to control or limit God. Joshua, in the first reading, and the apostle John, in the Gospel, both try to keep God from giving his Spirit to people that are not part of their group. How many times do we human beings do the same thing by telling God that he simply cannot love or give himself to other people the same way he loves and gives himself to us? We often tell God, “Nosiree, you cannot love and bless those Protestants, those Jews, those Muslims, those atheists, those black people, those homosexuals, those Democrats, those immigrants, those terrorists,” or whatever that other group is that we don’t like. What we are really doing in these situations is holding on too tightly to our image of God. You see, we often imagine that God thinks and acts and looks like us. Therefore, as Joshua and John learn in our readings today, God is also telling us that we have to let go of our limited image and understanding of God; we have to stop trying to put God into our little boxes and let God be God.

Everything I am saying today boils down to this: so often, you and I want to be in control. We want to be the one who tells God what he can or cannot do. This is no other than our ego, our false self, that, as I mentioned last week, does not want to surrender and tries to maintain control at all costs. Another way of saying this is that our ego always wants to stand on “solid ground” (put two fingers on my other palm) where it feels stable, secure, comfortable, and in control. And God is always pulling us and our egos out here (pull my fingers off my palm into the free air), exactly where we are unsure, unsteady, uncomfortable and definitely not in control. That is when you and I are hanging from that tree branch like the man in the story,
desperately clinging to that one thing we think is going to save us, and God says, “Let it go. Trust me, and let it go.”

So, the question for all of us today is: Is there anything we are holding on to in our lives more than we are holding on to God? Are we holding on to any hurt, anger, prejudice, unforgiveness or even bitterness or hatred that God is calling us to let go of so he can heal us? Let it go! Is there any fear, anxiety, stress or depression that is troubling us or even paralyzing us? Let it go! Is there something or someone in our lives that we think can give us more security, more happiness and fulfillment in our lives than God can? If so, then let it go and rearrange your priorities and put God first, because only God can be the foundation of our lives. 

Wherever we are in our spiritual journey, there is always something more for us to let go of; 
there is always something more we can surrender to God; there is always some way we can deepen our relationship with him. So, my brothers and sisters, God says to each one of us again and again, “Let go of that tree branch you are hanging on to. Let me be your healing, your strength, your comfort, your security, your happiness…let me be your life. Trust me, surrender to me. Let go, and surrender to win.”