The Tyranny of Our Past

October 1st Sunday Readings.

My local hardware store needs more cart corrals. You know, the metal structures placed express-cart-dual-cart-corral.pngin the parking lot rows where one returns a cart after one has used it. Pushed up on medians and wedged between parked cars are loose shopping carts because if one parks in certain rows there isn’t a place to return one’s cart to with in 75 feet.

But my mom didn’t raise the kind of kid that feels even remotely okay with leaving a cart to freely blow around a parking lot. Thus after I’ve emptied my hardware store type materials into my car, I walk my cart all the way back into the store like modern super hero. I rightly accept your adulation and affirmations of my virtue.

Next time I go to that store I could just as easily just leave my cart in the parking lot. I could choose the other path. I could change my mind. There is nothing that keeping me from breaking with my current habit.

Far too often we submit ourself to the tyranny of our past. What I mean by that is that we like to be consistent, even when presented with other options. We tend to think of ourselves as this or that kind of a person and thus we continue in this or that way. I think of myself at the kind of person that puts a cart back no matter what, and that guides my behavior.

Sometimes that kind of thing limits our behavior. In fact, sometimes this tyranny of our past keeps us in cycles of sin and self destruction. Sometimes people justify habitual sin by saying this is just who I am or the classic, “Well, I’m only human.”

The gospel this week presents a totally different understanding of our decisions. Jesus sets us free from the tyranny of our past. Jesus tells the story of two sons. One who says he won’t obey, but does, and one who says he will obey, but doesn’t  I don’t know the heart of either son, but scripture says that the first one “changed his mind.”

Part of the message is that every single one of us has an opportunity and the capacity to change our minds. If you have told God no in the past, you don’t have to today. You can change your mind. If you have turned away from God again and again, you can change your mind and turn back. If you have heard a call from God to do or to stop doing something and have ignored it, you can still change your mind. Conversely if, in your past, you’ve chosen to follow God, obey, pray, serve others, etc., it doesn’t mean you can coast the rest of your life. We can change.

Jesus can set you free form the tyranny of your past. In fact, this is the spiritual journey, that tomorrow we let Jesus make us a little more free than we were today.

Live It: No later than tonight before bed, kneel and pray, “Jesus free from my past and give my the grace to say yes to you tomorrow.” Level 2 – Go to Confession and be totally freed from the tyranny of your past.

Lose.

July 2nd Sunday Readings.

When was the last time you experienced something that made you say, “That was IMG_1552amazing”? Recently, I was at a concert where the lasers, lights, music, and performance were so overwhelming that I kind of forgot where I was for a moment and just stood in awe. This past weekend I stood on the beach of a beautiful lake and got lost in the sunshine and trees and water. Playing a game with friends recently, I laughed so hard I was concerned I might pass out (seriously), and I lost track of time.

I think the experience that these moments all hold in common is this sense of forgetting myself. I was so overwhelmed with awe or joy or beauty that I lost myself. If I really think back about the most memorable and profound moments of my life (wedding day, birth of my children, etc.) those moments also seem to be when I stop thinking about myself and focus on another.

In the gospel this weekend, Jesus says, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” I think this experience of losing one’s self is exactly what Jesus is talking about here. In other words, when we are able to forget about what we think we want or need, only then do we get to experience a life fuller than we could ever hope for.

As good as the concert, the sunshine, and the laugher was in helping me lose myself momentarily, it is really in moments of profound prayer and in helping others that I truly forget myself. The music faded, the sun set, and the game ended, but 10 days later, I am still thinking about the moment at the end of Mass over a week ago when I prayed a prayer of surrender and I lost myself in the Eucharist and music of Mass. It’s the faces of the children in Mexico or my own children that push me outside of myself and move me to lose myself more than a mere memory.

If you want to live the fullest life possible, then give your life your life away. Lose yourself; find God.

LIVE IT: Make 15 minutes this week to go and sit in a quiet, empty Church this week. If it’s Holy Name of Jesus, make your way into the Adoration Chapel. Be silent.