Today Father Richard is talking about John the Baptist. He titled his reflection
"John, The Master of Descent." He explains that John is a living paradox
and then quotes Matthew 11:11, "There is no man greater than John ... but
he is also the least." At his death, John had played his important part
and he knew it.
Knowing when we have finished one important part that is ours to play and then being
willing to move on to another is, I think, the spirituality of descent. This
week a very good friend of mine resigned from a position in an organization that
is dear to his heart. While he will remain connected to the ministry of that
group, he is changing his role. Moving from a place of leadership to a position
of wisdom keeper. In this process he is demonstrating the grace to step down
without stepping out. He is able to accomodate the remarkable change from leader
to follower. He is excited to welcome new people with new ideas and new ways
of perceiving the world. That is the pattern of John the Baptist. Do what is
yours to do and then point to the one who follows you. I admire him immensely.
I just received a message from a friend asking for prayers. She is the care-giver
for her mom whose independence is decreasing as her frailty is increasing. My
friend is a teacher and she has commitments to other people and other endeavors
that are significant pieces of her life. She and her mother are now faced with
the need to have heart-breaking discussions about making life-changing decisions
regarding the disparity between the care her mom needs and my friend's ability
to offer that care. This can be a time of hope if the parent is practiced at
letting go. It is a time of unbearable sadness and struggle if the parent is
trapped in holding on. Knowing when we have finished one important part of life
and then being willing to move on to another is, I think, the spirituality of
There is a great man in our church community who was, when we came here five and
a half years ago, responsible for the ushers and he served as one of the lay
worship leaders. He is in his mid-eighties and though he really enjoyed being
a worship leader he recently called Joe to say he thought it was time for him
to give up his place in the rotation of those who serve as lectors. A newly married,
young woman in our community has taken his place. She is excited about the opportunity
for ministry and our old friend loves to support her in that. Knowing when one
gift is no longer needed in the community and being willing to give one's place
to another is, I think, the spirituality of descent.
Richard says in today's reading that "there must be emptiness, or we cannot
point beyond ourselves." But we live in a culture that has little, if any,
appreciation for emptiness.
We want more freedom, more choices, more time, more resources and more power ............
We want to feel more significant and more important .....
And we want to be noticed more, valued more, and respected more than our neighbor
We desire more, not less _____ fullness, not emptiness
Fr. Richard speaking of John says, "Such emptiness doesn't just fall into our
laps; such humility does not just happen. It is surely the end product of a thousand
letting-goes and a thousand acts of devotion ...."
The Question: How is your spirituality one of ascent or descent?
My suggestion is that our answers, yours and mine, will have to do with how practiced
we are at letting go and with our commitment to acts of devotion. And I confess
to you, I have some work to do. But, let's be kind to ourselves because the journey
is a process.