It seems like there is no end to the packing I’ve been doing to get ready for my move to my new parish. I’ve decided I’ve got too much stuff besides having a serious disorganization problem with my office. M-day (moving day) is quickly approaching and I’ve become worried that I’m not going to be ready. There’s still stuff to go through in the office. There’s more boxes that need to be filled.
What is the spiritual insight I’m discovering through this experience. Maybe it’s that I’d never make it as a member of a religious order with a vow of poverty!
The experience of moving is an opportunity to consider that I do need to examine my relationship to things. I tend to accumulate and not divest. What’s up with that?
For instance, a couple of days ago in the process of going through boxes of stuff I brought to my rectory from the house I grew up in before the sale of the family’s property last summer I found notes from classes I took in high school and grade school! Now why would I need to take that with me to my next assignment? It’s a curiosity to catch a glimpse of my life 40 years ago, but do I really need a bunch of notebooks filled with my childlike script at age 55? Not really. Yet it was difficult to throw the notebooks into the paper recycling bin. It was like I was throwing away a part of myself. Intellectually I know that the experience will always be part of me and I don’t need the stuff. Literally the stuff was weighing me down. It’s time to let go of not just the stuff but the emotional baggage of my teenage years, too.
I learned to save stuff from my mom. The stuff from my childhood home that I brought with me last summer to Caseyville includes things mom stored from my infancy, too. She saved everything thinking it be worth something at the estate sale, like magazines (that didn’t sell and I ended up putting in our recycle bin). She saved mementos, I suspect because they represented her love for us, her children. Perhaps, having artifacts to help in remembering the past was her way of treasuring the life she was given.
But, holding onto stuff can keep you stuck in the past instead of moving into the future, I suspect. As Christians, we’re invited to leave our past “sinful self” behind and embrace a future full of life while we live in the present. Stuff is not always physical. It can be emotional baggage and past huts, too. Christians are to always be on the move, on a journey to the Kingdom. Anything that keeps them from being focused on the mission is to be jettisoned from their lives. Jesus told his disciples when he sent them out two by two to proclaim repentance because the Kingdom was near,
“Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household. If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment. Do not move about from one house to another. Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’”(Luke 10:4b-9)
As a priest preparing to move to a new town and a new parish these words of Jesus take on a special poignancy. What stuff am I being to invited to leave behind or divest myself of? I’m sure it’s more than a few boxes of childhood memories and back issues of periodicals. I know I need to simplify my inventory of possessions, but maybe I have to let go of a few other pieces of emotional baggage I’ve been holding onto like the anger I’ve got about the Bishop insisting I move. I’ve got to let go of the desire to accomplish a few more projects at St. Stephen like a new immersion baptismal font. There’s a whole new experience of being priest, disciple, and son of my dad waiting for me in the new parish. The journey to the Kingdom continues and I have an invitation to embrace the adventure, to experience the good things God has in mind for my new parishioners and me. The passage quoted above continues,
“Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” The seventy-two returned rejoicing, and said, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.” Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning 8 from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power ‘to tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 16-20)
I guess I’ve still got a way to go to reach the ideal Jesus preaches, though, of no extra shoes, suitcases or wallet stuffed with plenty of credit cards and cash for a sense of security. More packing awaits, tomorrow.