A few years back, I lost two items of significant sentimental value.
I went on a run in the local park early morning, and when I came back to the rectory, I noticed that I lost the Redemptorist Cross and Miraculous Medal that I wear daily on my necklace. They were not expensive, but they hold tremendous value for me. As a matter of fact, I literally went back and combed every inch of the trail that I ran, hoping to find them. I also invoked St. Anthony‘s assistance as well as a prayer request on social media asking for people’s prayers. I was really sad and frustrated.
They were sentimentally significant for me because I received the Cross in 2002 when I joined the Redemptorists and the Miraculous Medal was given to me by my Novice Master when I left the Redemptorists in 2007.
I took off the old gold cross that my parents gave me and replaced it with this cheaper cross — and wore it ever since. It marked the letting go of my old life in the world and the beginning of my new consecrated life. The Miraculous Medal also bore significant meaning for me because it marked the end of one meaningful chapter of my life and the beginning of a new chapter that I did not expect. I left the Redemptorist with great sadness but God led me on a new journey that ultimately gave me a chance to become a diocesan priest and a military chaplain. They bore personal value for me because they had seen and been with me through many events of my life, from the day that I entered religious life and began my priestly formation to my diaconate and priestly ordinations. They stayed with me when I began my priestly ministry to when I accepted my first official assignment as a parish priest to watch over my own flocks. They probably did not worth much, but they were worth a lot to me, and that was why losing them was so hard.
To be honest, I was moping about how I lost them, too. I was hoping for a miracle that they would show up again! Nevertheless, in the midst of my own personal sentimental struggle to figure out what was going on, I heard a voice telling me, “Let them go.”
It was hard — very hard — but I knew it was God who spoke to me. Letting go was hard, especially when these things are of significant personal value to me! It was hard but I finally accepted His will and prayed that whoever picked them up might find in them the help needed for their faith journey. I prayed that these religious articles would remind them of God‘s loving and constant care just as they had been for me. It took me a while, but I found my peace and I let them go…
That one particular event brought me to contemplate the high price of genuine discipleship. As Christians, bearing Jesus‘ own name and living out His mission in our everyday lives, we are called to conform our lives to emulate His sacrificial, self-giving love. In Matthew 10:37-42, the Lord challenged His apostles, as well as us, to love Him more than our father or mother, son or daughter, and to embrace our Cross as to follow Him. As a matter of fact, this foundational truth is so important that it appears in all versions of the Synoptic Gospels. Choosing Christ above everything and everyone is hard! It is not easy, especially if the thing or person holds a significant, sentimental, personal value to us.
It is hard to let go and choose Christ first and foremost before everyone and everything that is dear to us. It gets hard when we have tried so hard to create securities, comforts, or build up our own walls and kingdoms. To leave everything behind, what defines us, and what we think will make us happy is extremely hard! Yet, discipleship is a high price to pay in order to choose Christ before everyone and above all things. As Christians, He is not a choice among many choices, He is THE ONLY ONE! True discipleship requires us to leave everything to follow Him. It is extremely hard, but only when we live in His love, can we truly become loving witnesses of the truth to others.
Furthermore, the Lord reminded us that once we have His life within us, we will be able to radiate and share it with others. As a matter of fact, He was very sure that if we live as His disciples, whoever welcomes us will welcome Him, whatever action is given to us will be an action given to Him. Therefore, it is a personal and stewardship invitation to be hospitable, loving, welcoming, and caring toward everyone around us. We are called to recognize and welcome our brothers and sisters as if they are Christ Himself! That is, at times, hard, too, because we tend to allow our stereotypes, reservations, fears, standards, and differences to define relationships instead of recognizing His presence in one another. To be disciples is to be faithful and loving, to live what we have received from the Lord for one another!
Therefore, I would like to ask you to reflect on some questions:
- What is that one thing, person, or matter that I still value more than my own faith?
- Do I believe that God has good things in store for me, that He cares for my greater and eternal good more than what I can see or comprehend at this moment?
- Am I willing to let go of what I value the most in order to become His disciple?
- What does it take for me to follow and be faithful to my vocation as a Christian and believer?
The questions I raised for you to contemplate are not easy. They require a lot of time to reflect, discern, and let go. We will struggle from time to time, especially when things are personal and have great sentimental value to us. Sometimes we will fail or do not want to do what we know is good or right for us according to His will. However, the greatest and most freeing moment is to be able to choose to trust and respond to the situation with a greater love for Him. This is a lifelong journey of many, if not, daily, decisions to truly love and embrace His will for us, especially in letting go of what is truly dear and personal for us for the great price of loving Him.