There are times in my life when the confluence of thoughts and ideas and voices that I encounter align too perfectly to be random; when those concepts lead from one to another helping me to connect the dots as surely as these patches of light on my grandmother’s old rug are not formed by happenstance but by the sun passing through the folds of the curtain. And it is then that I clearly see the influence of the Holy Spirit at work.
Today was one of those times. The Gospel for Mass this morning was Matthew 19:16-22 in which Jesus tells the rich young man that if he wishes to gain eternal life, he should go, sell what he had, and give it to the poor. I’ve heard this Gospel preached many times, as I’m sure have most who might read this, and usually in the context of almsgiving. But today Father took it in a different direction. He encouraged us to think about it as not giving up all worldly things but as renouncing whatever it is that we love more than God.
And suddenly, I was struck by something. Perhaps it is because I just celebrated my two year consecration anniversary on the Feast of the Assumption last Saturday, but I remembered what had drawn me to Marian consecration in the first place when I initially learned about it. Rather than quote directly, I will paraphrase to capture the essence of what spoke to me.
In consecrating oneself to Jesus through Mary, one willingly relinquishes all merits, graces, and spiritual gifts, and returns them to Mary to distribute as she sees most fit, so that at the hour of your death, you are in a state of complete spiritual poverty and trusting abandonment to the love of Christ, the will of God, and her maternal care for you.
What I knew then on some instinctual level was that anything I grasp at, anything I struggle to keep close, I corrupt. And yet being human, my tendency, always, is to want to close my hands around things and say “mine!” My desire to consecrate myself in this way was with the hope that Mary would slowly teach me to unclench my fists and open my heart.
What I wondered this morning, with this Gospel and Father’s different explication of it juxtaposed so closely with my renewal of my vows, is if this very act of consecration has been a way to do what the rich young man in the parable could not do. Could willingly giving up all spiritual gifts be in itself a form of voluntary poverty? A poverty not of rejecting material wealth, but instead of choosing to relinquish those last things to which we cling; treasures we try to build up for ourselves not in this world but in the next?
I know it is not something I could ever do. But I know it is possible, because Mary can, and to the extent I give her permission, I can see that she is doing that within me. How do I know? Because as I grow in poverty, so also the space in my heart for gratitude increases.
When I began this blog, I chose the subtitle ‘radical gratitude’ without really understanding why. I suppose it was because I got frequent feedback that there was something ‘different’ about my outlook on life. What I have come to understand is that even gratitude itself is a gift, meant to be used in the service of others.
My part in this story is incidental, really, other than to stand and be amazed at the privilege of watching this interaction with Jesus, Mary, and the Holy Spirit unfold in my life. I write not to call attention to myself but to offer praise to God. If anything I have said prompts questions or if I can pray for you in any way, I am always listening.