A story goes like this: Two monks travelled on the road together. They met a lady on the road who needed help to cross a river. One of the monks carried her on his back, crossed the river, put her down, and continued on the road. After a while, he noticed that the other monk seemed to be upset. When asked, the other monk replied, “As a monk, you should keep a distance from women. How come you carried that lady across the river?” The monk replied, “I have put the lady down a long time ago. Why are you still carrying her?”
Indeed, the unbearable burdens in our life are our “attachments”.
This is one of the things we have been reminded to rid ourselves of in this Lenten Retreat, and is the second condition to achieve the goal of this retreat, that is, we must learn to “let go”. We have many “attachments” in our life that lead to our accumulation of “many things” physically, mentally, and spiritually; we are helpless under their powerful bondage. All these things distract us from focusing our energy on the more important things.
These “attachments” eventually become our “idols”, above God, whom we worship.
A simple test can reveal what our “idols” are: if the time and energy we spend on these “idols” are greater than the time and thoughts we put on God, these things or people are our “idols”.
In the more severe situations, when our enjoyment of these objects, whether those be things or people, progresses beyond hobbies to obsessions, they will eventually become our “addictions”.
Our addiction to these hobbies and obsessions, in fact, has replaced God as our “gods”. These “gods” also hold immense power over our decisions and our time; they render us powerless to walk away and focus on what we need to do.
This is our warning of the “attachment-trap”!
Our excessive attachment to material things, like the “accumulation” of material things, can be rectified easily, relatively speaking. Contrarily, mental attachments, such as our individual “desires” and “preferences”, require a greater willpower to resist.
Other more severe mental attachments may include our being judgemental of others, biases, jealousy, and the most difficult one, our reluctance to “forgive”. The list goes on and on. All these attachments bind us, deny us of the freedom to love and to choose, and enslave us under these “idols” and “gods”.
In the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 16 Verse 13, Jesus says,
“No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other,”
No one can serve two masters. If we choose anything other than our Creator God as our “master”, we are abandoning the God, our Abba Father, our true master who has not only created us, but also loves and cherishes us.
If we allow ourselves to be separated from God, we will lose touch with the fountain of all goodness and grace. As a result, we will fall victim to temptations in the hands of our enemies.
Monkeys usually give us the impression of being witty, lively, fun-loving and naughty. Actually, monkeys are similar to humans in many ways. We can even identify some of the human weaknesses in monkeys. For instance, it turns out that a hunter can easily capture the monkey without much effort. All he needs to do is to cut a small hole in a coconut shell and use the monkey’s favourite snack as bait and leave it inside the shell. When the monkey sticks his hand inside the coconut shell, his hand, forming a fist that holds the food, becomes stuck at the small opening. The hunter, taking advantage of the monkey’s greed and stubbornness, is able to capture his prey with ease. The monkey loses his life due to his “attachment”.
What does this story reveal to us? You may say laughingly, “I would never be as stupid as the monkey!” Incidentally, are we not also wasting our precious lives away due to our attachments? Remember God’s greatest gift for us, other than His love, it is our life; the gift of time in this world. If we willingly allow the insignificant things in life to rob us of our precious time to remain “focussed”, we are no different than the monkey who loses his life due to the small things. He has, indeed, lost sight of the big picture. Does the monkey’s decision sound worthwhile to you?
Consider the God who created us, willing to do anything for us and for our greatest benefits, and even dying willingly in our hands; how hurtful He must feel as His heart is broken by us over and over again. Is this what we wish for? Can you bear it?
Are you like the monkey who is deeply attached to life’s many “stubbornness”, and ends up sacrificing some of the more important people and things in your life?
This attachment to many idols and other gods, which one of these have imposed the firmest restrictions on you and paralyzed you?
Are you determined to leave behind the “hunters” in your life who are relentless in their chase for you? Now, you are invited to choose the most important master in your life.
Kind and merciful Abba Father, thank You for empowering me to confront my attachments, bondages, idols and other gods in my life through today’s reflection. You have opened my eyes to recognize how all these have been holding me hostage, plunging me deeper into my sins, leading me further and further away from You! It is now that I can finally feel Your pain, Your resignation, and Your desire to save me as I keep choosing other people and things over You. Let me be resolute to free myself from all these bindings, so that I won’t fall prey to my enemies. I am determined not to be blinded but to always fix my gaze on You. Let me not forsake Your infinite love for me. Father, I love You! Father, hear my prayer! Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.