This passage asks us to give up everything. To hate what we love. To leave behind what is most precious to us. To give everything to God (and that’s whatever God means to you) and walk away.
In Wisdom readings this week, we hear that the soul is light (as in weight, not as in light and dark) and that the body weighs down the soul. That it is through Wisdom that we lighten and begin to return to the pure soul (as much as possible with a human physical body).
Give it all up. Let it all go. Shed the weights of living and life.
Yet, we are human beings in a body. A body that in and of itself is heavy. We bear weight. Weight as the “crosses that we bear”. Our own mini-passions echoing the big Passion. Our own passions can be a gift. It teaches us about compassion. Compassion isn’t about helping those that are “less” than us, those that are “needier” than us, but helping those who are like us. Everyone is like us; that is the gift of the Passion. By our own crosses, we come to truly understand life’s weights and to see the sameness in our experiences that make us better able to truly help one another. It’s not: “Wow, that’s awful, but because things are better for me, I can help you.” That’s minimizing. Compassion is learning that we’ve all been there, in one way or another, and we can sit together in this.
That’s hard. By truly being with someone’s pain and grief and hurt and fear, we open ourselves to our own (current and remembered) pain and grief and hurt and fear. That’s compassion. Not pity, charity, ego (thank God that’s not me), but being with. Suffering with.
Even harder is the deep compassion that all beings feel pain, grief, hurt, loneliness, anger, and fear. They are just feelings, feelings come and go. It’s holding on to the emotions that brings weight. We help one another shed weight by being with one another. Crosses become heavier when the ego/self comes into play. Only me. I am suffering worse. Yes, we are all going to have those moments: this is unfair, why me?…and that’s okay. That’s human. It’s getting stuck in the idea that this pain is special, unique, different than anyone else’s or more to the point: that no one else can understand. That creates isolation and heaviness and that can lead to terrible outcomes. Our stories are different, and where we’re at is different, but we all carry crosses. That’s how we can help one another, by focusing on where we connect, not where we are different or even “more special” or “more especially bad off”. We’re all humans, bearing weight, on a human journey. And we can help one another. Part of that is opening ourselves to being helped.
It’s easy to add weight. We do it in all sorts of ways. There’s a hiking phrase that nicely explains this: Fear is Weight. Packing for a hiking trip is a great way to understand our fears (often disguised as “just planning well”). The key is to come up with the most common scenarios and prepare for those. Too often, we come up with the special, unique, (pretty unlikely) stories and begin to prepare for them. What if I get lost and no one finds me for a month? That’s an extra month’s worth of food. Weight. What if I get skunked. That’s a can of tomato juice. A bear…bear mace. An ax murderer…a big knife. Weight. Weight. Weight. Not only do we prepare for our own fears, but people are really happy to add their fears to your pack.
Suddenly, we’re prepared for everything and staring at a pack we can’t possibly carry. PAUSE. Fear is weight. There are the usual, common, universal concerns to pack for. Then, for your own potentialities to plan for (medications and the like) and your local weather (you don’t need bug spray in January—take it out). Every bit of weight matters. You’re carrying it, literally, on your back. This is a great metaphor for “carrying weight”. How heavy are our crosses? What crosses are we carrying? Which extra crosses are we carrying? What crosses are we still holding because we’re afraid of what might happen if we let it go?
Possessions add weight. Perhaps this is why we are asked to give up possessions to follow the path. Remember that someone funds the mission. There is nothing wrong with money or possessions.
It is only that possession are easy to overdo and easily drag us off the path of what matters most. Remember, what matters most is what matters most to us. It’s not some other person’s what matters most, it’s our own what matters most that is too often neglected and lost in stuff and what other people think. This is the stickiness of possessions and money. Perhaps, the lessons are more of a reminder that it is easier to get rid of it all…than it is to manage it. Which is perhaps our cross to bear as householders.
What are our possessions and do they own us, possess us, or do we use them as tools toward what matters most? Possessions and money open opportunities to do good. It’s when we get distracted by the stuff and money to the detriment of doing good that we have unhealthy weight. And we know what that weight feels like. Money is important, it does bring us security and agency and happiness, but only so much. Beyond that, it’s weight. When we worry and stress and fear about “enough” or “if just a little bit more, then ___”, it becomes weight. The more we worry about money and stuff, the less time we have for family, connections, good work, and what matters.
We need to have care that possessions don’t define us. Yes, the human image and human prestige defining and comparing with one another.
But also, using this weight to define God’s love. God must love me more because I have more. That’s a subtle one. It sneaks in. We tell ourselves it’s okay to work more or buy more, because once we have more, then we can help those less fortunate than us. Less/more. Light/heavy. Better/worse. Compare/contrast. Who’s actually less fortunate and who are we to judge?
The poorest among us are often the ones who feel the most blessed. It’s not the stuff and the money that defines blessing. And it’s not the stuff and the money that’s the problem.
I don’t know if I’m right, but I’m not sure that God cares about our wealth and possessions. It’s people who worry about money and possessions. It’s people who judge one another around who has too much and who has too little. I imagine God, and that’s whatever God means to you, probably cares more about what’s in our hearts than in our wallets.
It’s our work to be sure that what’s in our wallet isn’t affecting our heart. It’s our work to be sure that we don’t let what’s our wallets weigh down our souls. It’s our work to remember that more often than not our greatest gift to one another, probably the one measured on a lightening scale, is time.
It’s our work to be sure that the weights of the world don’t disconnect us from one another and what matters most. It’s our work to realize that we are not the disciples being asked to walk away from everything, but followers who bring the path into our daily lives. Followers who work to lighten the heavy loads. Followers who practice love and trust that love with lighten the soul.
(add’l closing pieces in Church version)