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Be ready to leave everything behind

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

WE have to understand very well this particular aspect or requirement of an authentic Christian life. That’s because, most likely, our first impression of it can be misleading. To be sure, to be ready to leave everything behind does not mean that we should have no concern at all about the things of this world. We do have such concern and interest. In fact, we should.

But yes, to leave everything behind has been more than amply taught and commanded by Christ himself. For example, to the rich young man who wanted to be perfect, Christ told him in no unclear terms, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Mt 19,21) These words obviously would give us the impression that we should possess nothing.

In another instance, Christ specifies what is required to be worthy of him. “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Mt 10,37)

Christ even uses the word “hate” to emphasize what is needed to be his disciple. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even their own life--such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14,26)

Still in a more graphic way, Christ spells out what is involved in following him. When someone said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father,” Jesus to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead…No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Lk 9,59ff.)

When Christ called the apostles to follow him, these men for one reason and another left everything (relictis omnibus). Christ spelled out what is involved in following him. One has to deny himself and carry the cross. (cfr. Mt 16,24)

Still more, Christ said that the kingdom of God is like a treasure found in a field or when one finds a pearl of great price that would provoke one to sell all he has to buy that field or pearl. (cfr. Mt 13,44-45)

St. Paul lived this indication well when he said, “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” (Phil 3,8)

But in all these citations about leaving everything behind for Christ, it does not mean that we should have no concern or interest in the things of this world. That’s because the things of this world are precisely the means, the occasion, the instruments we have to use to show our faith, hope and love for God and for others.

That is why Christ in his priestly prayer before his passion and death said, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” (Jn 17,15-16)

What is clear is that while being in the world, we should be detached from the things of the world. Our heart should be completely with God. This is what is meant by being ready to leave everything behind for Christ. And with God, we would have everything else actually!

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