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Homily for Sept 11 2005 - Monkey Trap

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  • David Moser
    Matt 19:16-26 It is said that one way to trap a monkey is to put some food at the bottom of a large jar with a narrow mouth just big enough for the monkey to
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 11, 2005
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      Matt 19:16-26

      It is said that one way to trap a monkey is to put some food at the bottom
      of a large jar with a narrow mouth just big enough for the monkey to get his
      hand into. The monkey will put his hand into the jar to get the food, but
      when he grabs it, his hand is now too big to pull out of the jar through the
      narrow mouth. Rather than let the food go and pull his hand away, the
      monkey will stubbornly, even irrationally, hold onto the food and remain

      Today in the Gospel we heard of a similar situation. A young man came to
      Jesus asking, "How can I be saved". First our Lord told him that he must
      keep all the commandments and when the young man assured Him that he had
      done so from his youth, our Lord then said to him, "Only one thing you lack.
      Give all that you have to the poor and come and follow me." The Gospel
      tells us that the young man went away sad for he had great riches. He was
      unable to let go and get his "hand" out of the jar and so remained trapped.

      Today our Lord offers us the same opportunity, to let go of our worldly life
      and to receive instead His eternal life. All we have to do is to follow
      Him, to turn from our worldly ways, our worldly priorities, our worldly
      desires, our worldly pleasures and instead to follow the heavenly path, to
      receive heavenly riches and pleasures and to share in the life of the Holy
      Trinity. This, in fact, is the purpose for which we were created - to share
      in the life of God, to enjoy the heavenly pleasures, to live forever with
      our creator. But because we have sinned we have turned aside from that path
      and gotten lost in the distractions of this world. We have worldly
      possessions, worldly ambitions, worldly careers, worldly desires, worldly
      priorities, and so on all holding us back from gaining the true fulfillment
      and joy of our union with God. Our Lord Jesus Christ, by His death and
      Resurrection has set us back on the right path and now all we have to do is
      to follow Him.

      But we are trapped, as it were, by this world. Each person has something
      that holds him back - for this young man in the Gospel it was his wealth -
      something that keeps him from pulling his hand out of the "monkey pot" and
      freeing him to follow Jesus Christ. Now that something might be wealth, or
      it might be the simply the enjoyment of worldly pleasures or it might be
      pride and the desire for worldly esteem. For some it might be the demands
      of a career or some other achievement. Each person has at least one thing
      keeps him from following Christ, that has him trapped as long as he holds
      onto it (some people, indeed most of us, probably have more than one thing).
      We come to the Church, to our Lord, saying "What must I do to be saved" and
      He replies to us first that we must live the life of the Church. Even if we
      are able to do this, however, He still says to us, "Give up those things
      which hold you back - let go of the food in the pot and take out your hand -
      and then come and follow me."

      To let go of our prized possession, whether it be wealth, pride, our own
      ideas, pleasure or whatever, is a difficult thing. For this reason we hear
      elsewhere in the Gospel, "If any man would come after me, let him deny
      himself, take up his cross and follow me" Here the act of "letting go" of
      these worldly things is equated with self denial and crucifixion. That's
      the kind of effort that it takes. But rather than look at the effort,
      rather than focus on what you lose, let your mind and heart settle on your
      goal, on what you will gain. Our Lord offers us immortality in the place of
      mortality; He offers us eternal bliss in the place of mere happiness that
      fades after a moment; He offers us true fulfillment and purpose in place of
      searching and emptiness. All these things He offers to us and ultimately He
      offers us Himself - to live in intimate union with Him throughout eternity;
      to share in His life, to participate in the life of the Holy Trinity. The
      scope and depth of these eternal riches and joys is unimaginable,
      unthinkable and unspeakable. We don't even have the ideas or the words to
      describe the heavenly life - and it is all freely offered to us. All we
      have to do is to let go of what we think we have in this world and empty our
      hands and hearts so that we can accept this great gift of grace and be
      filled with this new life.

      Even when we fully comprehend what God offers to us, to let go of what we
      have is still hard. But Glory to God, He does not require that we
      disentangle ourselves all at once or even by ourselves. He stands ready to
      help us gently, carefully, step by step to let go of this world and grasp
      the heavenly life. He doesn't even show us everything all at once, but only
      shows us the steps that we are ready to take. As we take those steps, He is
      there with us to strengthen us, to guide us, to support us so that there is
      no danger of a misstep or a fall of any kind. We are surrounded by our
      friends in the Faith, by those who share this life here on earth with us as
      well as those who have completed their course on this earth and who now
      stand before the throne of God in a foretaste of the heavenly life we all
      hope to obtain together. Not only that but the whole company of the angelic
      host is with us, aiding us and encouraging us as well. We are not left
      alone in this, but we are united to one another as we are all united to

      This is the love and compassion of Jesus Christ towards us that even while
      we were still trapped by our worldly life, He comes to us, He shows us the
      great life and destiny that awaits us and when we express our desire for
      that heavenly life with Him, He helps us step by step, moment by moment to
      let go of the things that hold us back, that have us trapped until we can
      let go, slip our hand out of the trap and instead take His hand as He leads
      us into His kingdom.

      Constantly remind yourselves of the heavenly joys - take every taste you
      can; in the heart, contemplate heavenly things, nurture and develop in
      yourself the desire for those things. Here in the Church, surrounded by the
      hymns and prayers of the services, the icons of the saints, the smell of the
      incense which reminds of our prayer and God's great grace that surrounds
      us - here we experience a little bit of heaven. But this is only a
      foretaste, a preview of the unimaginable joy, the incomprehensible pleasure,
      the unbounded life that awaits us in heaven.

      To each of us, our Lord says "Come, let go of the worldly things that hold
      you back and come follow Me and I will give to you rest from your labors, I
      will give you great and unbounded joy, I will give you Myself that we might
      be joined and share in the eternal life that is the life of the Holy
      Trinity." Keep this goal before your eyes, before your mind, before your
      heart that you might always orient yourself away from the world and towards
      Jesus Christ.
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