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Tuesday, March 4, 2014
LENT AGAIN: Fast from Your Easy Chair. Put on Christ!
by Susan Fox
Mardi Gras, 2014 -- Last
night I sat in my easy chair and mourned.
Imagine your husband came
home and asked you to move to a distant land to serve Christ -- in three years time.
And you were really excited about it, and then suddenly you realized, “I can’t
take it with me…”I can’t take the easy chair.
I can’t take the Catholic books we collected over a lifetime. I can’t take mother’s
dishes, my father’s photographs. Not only can’t I take it, but also I have no
place to store it either!
I was even disturbed to think
of losing my income tax records in case I was audited while I was in the distant land. What about those dusty
folders I keep of research for future articles, the poems I wrote over a lifetime?
Suddenly, I understood a
thousand tiny silver threads tied me down. I was trussed up just like Lemuel
Gulliver when he was captured by the Lilliputians.
At Mass this morning, Father
said for Lent we should ask ourselves, “Who or what is holding you back?” And I
thought with dismay, “My furniture! My new furniture. You know if I went home
now, and my house was completely empty, I’d be much happier.”
Ironically, I have always
despised people who are attached to their easy chairs. I have said derogatorily
that they will be still sitting there after they are dead. I didn’t even own an
easy chair until 2010. We got one after my heart surgery because before my
heart surgery I couldn’t sleep lying down. That’s common for people with heart
problems. So without an easy chair where did I sleep? In my car, parked in my
I got the second easy chair
when we moved to Colorado in 2012 because Larry kept stealing mine. It’s
lovely. It has red and gold leaves all over it, and that was the one I was
sitting in last night when I realized I was attached to a chair. “Get up,
Susan, and don’t sit down again! At least never sit down in that chair in your
heart. Live in the world, but do not be of it.”
I remember a story of a nun
who was dying, and she wasn’t happy. She had given up everything, marriage,
children, and career to live the life of a Bride of Christ. But on the day she
was dying, she wasn’t happy. A priest came to visit her, and realized she still
had one silver thread holding her to the earth... He said to her, do you own a
pen that was given to your mother by Pope So and So? Why yes, she did own such
a pen. The priest told her to smash it.
She was quite angry at first,
but she did as she was instructed. She was an obedient nun. And on the day she
died she was laughing with joy! “That crazy priest knew what he was talking
about!” she chortled.
Think of the enthusiasm of
the man who went up to Jesus, and asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to
inherit eternal life?” And Jesus reminded him of the 10 commandments. “Teacher,
all of these I have observed from my youth.”
So Jesus looked at him with
love, and said, “You are lacking in one thing. Go sell what you have, and give
to the poor...then come follow me.”
But the Gospels report that
the man’s face fell, and he went away sad “for he had many possessions.” (Mark
10:22) Ho ho. I was there last night.
Jesus explains, “No one can
serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to
one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matt 6:24) Mammon is an idol. It means riches
or possessions, but Psalm 37:3 hints the word means more than that --
"riches in which men trust.”
That is the
whole issue, isn’t it? Who do we trust? Do we trust Our Lord Jesus Christ, or
do we trust in keeping that easy chair? It should be an easy choice to make, but
we quibble over it, don’t we? We are afraid to let go.
But Jesus Christ
even responds to that fear in today's gospel. Peter said to Jesus, “We have given up everything
and followed you.”Jesus interrupted him
and said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or
brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and
for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in
this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and
lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”(Mark 10:28-31)
had a Bible scholar sitting next to me at breakfast this morning. His wife was
saying, “She’ll get the 100 easy chairs back in heaven, right?” She was concerned
for my loss. And he said, “No, the promise is for this life,” meaning give up
an easy chair and you get it back one hundred fold.What will I ever do with 100 easy chairs? Share
them with my friends, obviously.
biblical logic works. I have been reflecting lately about a sacrifice I made in
1991. I abandoned a successful 12-year career as an investigative newspaper
reporter in order to stay home with my young son. I had been supporting the
family until then, but Larry graduated with a degree in electrical engineering
and was ready to go to work. My last temptation was the Wall Street Journal.
They told me they were going to put me into their next opening in San
Francisco. I didn’t tell them I was about to slink out of town and become a
housewife. But I did -- slink out of town, that is. And I never looked back, which is why I am not a pillar
of salt today.
And now, look
at me. God has returned my writing job back to me a hundred fold. I am sitting
here now and writing to you. And I don’t have an editor except Jesus Christ,
and His servants. I can literally write about
anything I want.
possessions aren’t the only trap that ties us to the earth. Those apostles who
told Jesus, they had given up everything for Him? They were arguing about who
was to be first in the kingdom right up to the Last Supper! Jesus even had to
put a little child in front of them to remind them that unless you become as a
little child you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Position, power and
competition have their own unbreakable silver threads.
Swift, who created the story of the travels of Lemuel Gulliver, was a bitter satirist. The Lilliputians who
captured Gulliver quarreled over the practice of cracking eggs open. Their practice had been to break boiled eggs on the larger end, but a few generations before a
Lilliputian Emperor decreed that all eggs be broken on the smaller end. (He had
cut himself breaking the egg on the larger end). Well, not everyone agreed,
and the differences between Big-Endians and Little-Endians gave rise to six
rebellions in which one Emperor was killed and another lost his crown. Swift is
making a parody of English history. King Henry VIII broke with Rome (Big
Endians) so he could divorce his wife. Then he introduced Protestantism to
England (Little Endians)
Could the quarrel with Rome
been avoided had King Henry simply tried to live the beatitude, “Blessed are
the meek” -- as in docile and obedient? Absolutely. If he had, the Church in
England would be one with Rome today and England would be a more prosperous, happier nation. Use your
But don’t worry. I’m no
better than King Henry. God likes to teach me things in my dreams. So one day I
had a dream about a priest who had just given a retreat in Seattle. In the
dream, the priest walked in on me and the other women who were in his formation
program. We were all lying around asleep on a very large bed. Father entered
and exclaimed, “You are asleep.” Yep. We were.
But he woke me up and took me
outside to the front of the house we were sleeping in. “Susan, you like dessert
(I do like dessert),” he said, adding, “Go to the back of the house, and I will
meet you there and give you this dessert.” (He held a cake on a plate.) And I
looked and there was a huge, vast tract of empty land behind the house, which
was now a mansion. So yes, I was motivated. My aggressive news reporting
instincts were on full alert.
There was a grown woman next
to me sitting on top of an adult-sized tricycle, probably one of my fellow
servants of Christ. So I pushed her off the tricycle and got on it and starting
peddling to the back of the house where that big land waited. But I never got
there because I woke up, and thought, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall
possess the land.” Oh, oh. I failed that one.
Notice the childish behavior
of pushing someone off a tricycle. This symbolized the way we try to get things
done – even when striving to do something good -- through our own power and
authority, not docilely dependent on God.The end doesn’t justify the means.
Five years later, the same
priest ate half his dessert, walked past 70 other people in our group and
handed me his half dessert. My tablemates were a little shocked, but I was
joyful. “Lord, does that mean I’ve made progress on that beatitude?”
The key to letting go of
attachments is not to detach. No, the movement is in the opposite direction. Anchor your heart in Christ Jesus and hold on
for all you are worth. You will drop the easy chair without even noticing it.
It’s mysterious, but the
message of today’s gospel reading is whatever you give up for the sake of the
kingdom of God, you will receive back a hundredfold. And remember this: Jesus
concludes the gospel with the words, “But many that are first will be last, and
the last will be first.” (Mark 10:31)
So leave your fellow servants
on their tricycle.
Humbly walk with Christ.
And for Lent, imagine your
husband or other family member comes home and invites you to move to a distant land to serve God. ANOTHER EXCELLENT MEDITATION ON LENT from Christ's Faithful Witness: Remember Man, You are Dust!