We need to set this in the context of the whole Gospel message, which tells us that we all have been created for life with God. We are like branches that need to be nourished by the main vine. And if we become detached, we begin to wither and die. We cannot be who we’re supposed to be on our own. But we try. Oh, how we try!
Some of us try to do it by making money and possessions and the thing we call “security” our number one priority. There is nothing wrong with money and possessions in themselves, but we tend to put all our trust in them to make our life worthwhile. And it never works. Some of us try to do it through the exercise of control over other people. It gives us a temporary sense of power, but it’s always temporary and, ultimately, self-defeating. Some of us try to do it with excessive alcohol or drug abuse, and we experience a temporary high, but it’s always temporary — and then comes the crash.
There is a beautiful, true story about a woman who was preparing to sell her house. She had her seventy-seven-year-old mother and some others come in to help get the place ready for showing to prospective buyers. The mother was one of those “take-charge” persons, and she started by organizing the work, giving orders, telling everyone what to do. In the afternoon she went out in the yard with her seventy-four-year-old sister to rake leaves. She began raking up a storm while the sister worked at a milder pace. Finally, the older woman shouted over her shoulder, “Annie, if there’s anything I can’t stand it’s a lazy person.” Annie leaned very gracefully on her rake and replied, “Edna, did you ever stop to think that if there’s anything a lazy person can’t stand, it’s you?” There are a lot of us like that. Ego-driven, we tear around like spoiled over-achievers, trying to get everybody to do things our way, trying to be in control and, in the process, making life miserable for those around us. We may accomplish some good things, but because we are so ego-driven most of the good ultimately drains away. Worst of all, many of us, like the Pharisees, turn our praying and our worship and our good works into this ego-structure. We continually try to justify ourselves before God and man.
The only power that is great enough to break through that ego-structure — to bring us to our senses and free us from the bondage of our ego-centeredness — is the power of God in Jesus Christ. We need to experience the power of God’s Love to discover our true worth as human persons. Apart from God, we cannot be our true self. Apart from God, we cannot give our consent to the good life that makes everything worthwhile.
“God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us,” Paul has written. This will become real to us only if we open our inner-space by renouncing the things in life that will not allow God’s Love to break through. When we let go in this way, God is there.
And so, we pray: Lord, help us to see how caught up we really are in our own ego-driven life-style. We have become so good at it that we can’t see it anymore. Open our heart to your example of humility that we may break free to see you in our midst. Amen.