The practice of letting go.
Until the beginning of last year, I spent 6 years in India. I had the good fortune of spending the last few months of my stay there in an ashram in South India, as part of a short sabbatical. My spiritual director was a wise old Jesuit priest, Fr Ama Samy, who guided me each day for 3 months in the practice of meditation. One key aspect of this form of meditation was learning how to let go: in focusing on the out breath, we were taught how to gradually let go of……one’s very self! As Jesus himself says in the Gospel of Luke:
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
Do we ever stop to consider what losing one’s life really means; and what is the self you must deny? These are important questions, and ones that are addressed in the guidance given by Fr Ama Samy. No easy practice, especially as it requires plenty of patience and a certain amount of humility. But when you learn how to let go in meditation, indeed in prayer, you reach a point when you are no longer in control of what is happening. A good place to be in prayer, indeed in one’s spiritual life. This brings us to the person and life of St Joseph. There were at least 2 key occasions in the Gospels where he is asked to let go of his own plans: the first is when he is asked by the Angel Gabriel in a dream to take Mary home as his wife. In this event, Joseph learns to let go of the decision he had already made to divorce Mary informally. When he agrees to take Mary home as his wife, he is going against his original decision. He is no longer in control of his life, because he allows the will of God to enter fully into his life.
In the second event, he is asked to take Mary and Jesus with him and flee into Egypt. Not only is this request and his response to this request a disruption of his daily life, it is a letting go into the unknown: what sort of life is he being asked to lead in Egypt? What will he do there? I am not sure he knew the answer to these questions! He is being led, in both events, into a place of confusion and uncertainty. Once again, a good place to be in prayer and in one’s spiritual life!
The upcoming Novena to St Joseph is a good time to stop and take stock of how we apply some of these questions to our own lives. Maybe we can ask St Joseph during this time to give us to courage to let go and to let God enter more fully into our hearts, minds and souls!
Brian Oswald mhm, Novena Director