“There is a story about a tribe in North Africa with an interesting method for catching monkeys. The hunter hollows out a gourd; making a hole in its side just big enough for a monkey to insert his open hand. He then fills the gourd with nuts; tying it to a tree. The monkey attracted by the smell of the contents, reaches into the opening in the gourd and grabs a handful of the nuts. Here comes the trick: The hole in the gourd however, is too narrow for the monkey to withdraw his hand while holding a fistful of nuts. In his greed, the monkey refuses to release the delicacies to extract his hand; allowing him to become easy prey for the hunter.
If only the monkey would relax his grip on his desired treasure, he would escape capture. But because of his stubborn refusal to let go of his prized possession, the monkey is easily trapped.”
Let go and let God. We are called to let go of the things of this world, the things that trap us; keeping us tied to this world: for Jesus came into this world to release us from the world so we can enter with Him into the next: God’s eternal kingdom of glory.
As we see in the Gospel, the act of being holy and holiness are not the same. We rely on God, through His Holy Spirit, to touch our hearts; making us truly holy, enabling us to keep the things of God ever on our minds and in our hearts; releasing us from the traps of the evil-one through the things of this world. It is the evil-one’s distractions that keep us from being truly holy.
We are called to trust in God; relying on Him for all our true needs, the desires of our hearts – that lead us to eternal life and the peace of His kingdom. We are never truly free until we let our Lord free us from enslavement to the things of this world. We do not reject this world, but are called to hold it in proper perspective, so that in our heart – God’s love and His gift of eternal life are held – as our true heart’s desire.
The evil-one sets many attractive traps using very persuasive arguments; attempting to turn us away from becoming fully human, as intended by our Creator. In the evil-one’s jealousy, because he objects that God made us in God’s image, the evil-one hopes to lure us from the light and salvation through Jesus Christ into the darkness of disobedience and sin, thus thwarting God’s desire for His children to dwell with Him for all eternity.
The evil-one uses the things of this world, - those ever-changing fads, created needs, and must-have-now’s of our secular culture. His toadies tell us that these things are ever so important and necessary to finding true happiness and fulfillment. We know them very well. We are daily bombarded with their messages; playing to our fears and insecurities, our weaknesses and frustrations, our longings and loneliness. – they become the false desires of our heart; turning us away from God and eternal life; trapping us forever in this finite world.
The act of being holy and holiness are not the same. We can follow the rules and say the prayers, but if we don’t love with the love of God; sharing truly a life in Christ – we can be like the young man, sad - for lacking a heart that loves others with the love we have from God.
We trust in God; relying on His Holy Spirit, to touch our hearts to make us truly holy. For us holiness is difficult, but with God all things are possible. Through His grace we keep the things of God ever in our hearts and on our minds, so we find true freedom and peace in letting go of the evil-one’s enticements of this world that distract us; keeping us from finding perfection in God.
If it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, then we too must ask the same question today that the disciples asked of Jesus, “Then who can be saved?”
I want to finish with this little story from the pages of life.
I knew a man many years ago who owned his own business. He was a humble worker gifted with a savvy business sense and the ability to make friends easily. As his business grew, as expected, so did his wealth. Early in his business life he purchased a prized possession - a Corvette. It bore the license plate ‘Toy’. In place of pride in his office he had a gilded plaque that read: “He who dies with the most toys -- wins.”
As the business grew over the years he added to his collection of ‘Toys’. Each an increasingly expensive and exotic sports cars. The license plates of each of these cars also sported the “Toy” license plate, with a little sub-numeral counting up his prize possessions. When I last saw him he had added four more Toys for himself, not including the one’s he purchased for his wife and children. Together, they had quite a collection.
I often wondered about that little sign on his office wall. It had a prominent position right behind his desk for everyone to see. What I wondered was, when he died what did he expect to win?