Right after the 7:30 Mass at St. Anthony of Padua, I drove across Fairfield and went to the 8:30 Mass at St. Pius X Church. It was such a pretty church that had a calmness about it. The altar was so peaceful looking.
The priest read the Gospel and started his homily. He reminded us that this Gospel reading is also known as The Story of the Rich Man. In the story, Jesus tries to get this rich man to give up EVERYTHING; all of his material possessions and then follow him. The man just cannot do it. He gives Jesus some excuses, and ultimately decides not to give up everything to follow him. He just can’t do it. The priest explained that Jesus was likely disappointed, but he also knew that the man had FREE WILL. Truth be told, I did not see that punch line coming! The story was familiar to me, but I hadn’t ever realized that same bottom line. And the priest said it so nonchalantly. Then came the big reminder…….WE ALL HAVE FREE WILL and Jesus still loves us, as he loved this man, without conditions. This is true even when we make the conscious decision not “to follow him” in our day to day interactions. He went on to remind us that although Jesus recognized his own personal sadness, he suspended all judgment of this man. He recognized that the man had a choice and he had Free Will. Free Will is a powerful concept.
As a mother, I am not so sure I like the powerful concept of Free Will. Free Will means that as my children and nephews and nieces get older, I need to love without conditions and recognize that God gave each of them Free Will. This, by it’s very definition means, that I cannot control them! That is not easy. I have struggled (and my own kids know this because I have told them!!) with letting go and trusting their Free Will. I needed to hear this homily with regards to my own kids, my nephews and nieces since I really have to come to terms with no longer controlling everything about them and be OK with their decisions. It is the who and where and when they are doing what they are doing that I no longer have a say in that makes it hard for me. It was easier for me to control their lives when they were younger!
As I look beyond just my family I quickly can think of friends and co-workers who have gone through tough times with their own family members that involve this notion of Free Will. It would be nice if everything could wrap up neatly for each of them so that everyone could make things nice nice, but EVERYONE has the same Free Will that I have. They can’t control my decisions just as I cannot control others’ decisions. And they cannot control the others in their own families if everyone really has this powerful thing called Free Will. This is hard stuff!
One other thought I had after mass was……How quickly would I be willing to give up all my material possessions and follow Christ. How similar am I to the “rich man” vs. being Christ-like? I will readily admit that I am a follower of Christ, but I have to also quickly add that ….only when it is convenient; as long as I can “control” the “conditions” to a certain extent. If I was faced with the decision the “rich man” in the story was faced with, I am not so sure that I would use my own Free Will in any other way than how he used it. I would like to say I would do something different than what he did, but I am not so sure….
This concept of Free Will stuff is a blessing……and a challenge….all at the same time!