Acts 4:1-2 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
Several years ago, when my daughter went off to university in another city, I felt the loss very keenly. She, on the other hand, was off on an adventure and had new things to try and new friends to be with. It was a difficult transition for me. I said the word “should” a lot: she should call us more often. She should come home more often. She should think of us more often. She should miss us more. I had raised her to be independent, and now came the stark realization that she no longer needed me! I often found myself feeling disappointed, angry, frustrated, and annoyed.
The Lord taught me many lessons through that time, one of which was this: if you have no expectations, you will never be disappointed. On the surface that may sound harsh, but it ties in very well with the penitential lifestyle.
There are two kinds of expectations. There are the good kind that mostly flow from our daily duties and obligations. We are expected to go to work on time, to give an honest day’s work, to change the baby’s diaper, to follow traffic laws. The other kind of expectations involve the laying of burdens on others.
It is very easy to lay the burden of expectation on others, but it is a two-edged sword doing damage to ourselves and to the target of our expectations. Yet, we do it all the time, most often with those closest to us. A wife feels frustrated that her husband watches TV while she is doing the dishes. Her expectation is that he would help her and they could go watch TV together. She gives him the cold shoulder. A grandmother feels disappointed that her adult grandchildren no longer visit her. Her expectations simmer and when someone does come to visit she is gruff with them.
I do not wish to invalidate the way people feel in situations of perceived injustice. In many cases clearer communication could alleviate the situation. However, for those of us called to a life of penance, and for anyone wishing to grow in holiness, it would be good to examine our consciences and work towards annihilating our expectations. The penitent is called to cultivate spirit of detachment and to offer up any slights or injustices to God, linked to the cross. St. Ignatius of Loyola gives us a prayer that may assist us in growing in the virtue of detachment:
“Grant, O Lord, that my heart may neither desire nor seek anything but what is necessary for the fulfillment of Your Holy Will. May health or sickness, riches or poverty, honors or contempt, humiliations, leave my soul in that state of perfect detachment to which I desire to attain for Your greater honor and Your greater glory. Amen.”
There are certain “tells” that indicate when we have need to pray for a spirit of detachment. Feelings of disappointment, frustration, anger, and annoyance can be clues that more work needs to be done. There are many books and websites that can assist us in growing in detachment. The Imitation of Christ is a must-read and re-read for anyone wishing to grow in holiness. Here is an excerpt:
“Be not troubled about those who are with you or against you, but take care that God be with you in everything you do. Keep your conscience clear and God will protect you, for the malice of man cannot harm one whom God wishes to help. If you know how to suffer in silence, you will undoubtedly experience God’s help. He knows when and how to deliver you; therefore, place yourself in His hands, for it is a divine prerogative to help men and free them from all distress.
“It is often good for us to have others know our faults and rebuke them, for it gives us greater humility. When a man humbles himself because of his faults, he easily placates those about him and readily appeases those who are angry with him. It is the humble man whom God protects and liberates; it is the humble whom He loves and consoles. To the humble He turns and upon them bestows great grace, that after their humiliation He may raise them up to glory. He reveals His secrets to the humble, and with kind invitation bids them come to Him. Thus, the humble man enjoys peace in the midst of many vexations, because his trust is in God, not in the world.
“Hence, you must not think that you have made any progress until you look upon yourself as inferior to all others.”
Abandonment to Divine Providence is another spiritual classic that can take one quickly down the path of detachment:
“Everything arranged by God as regards actions and sufferings must be accepted with simplicity, for those things that happen at each moment by the divine command or permission are always the most holy, the best and the most divine for us.”
Avoiding the temptation to lay our burden of expectation on others is only half of it. The flip-side is the expectation we ought to lay on ourselves to grow daily in holiness and to always try to set a good example for others. There is a wonderful anecdote in the Little Flowers of St. Francis where a peasant once admonished the saint: “Try to be as good as everyone thinks you are, because many people have great faith in you. So I urge you: never let there be anything in you different from what they expect of you.” St. Francis immediately threw himself down before the peasant and kissed his feet, thanking him for having admonished him so charitably. St. Francis was one who was always hard on himself and easy on others, an attitude that is worth imitating.
May God grant us all the grace of detachment from the expectations that serve only to lay burdens on others and disturb our peace.
From my other blog: https://pelianitoblog.wordpress.com/
2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.
“My child, esteem nothing that does not lead to Christ. You are earthly vessels, it is true, but you house a spirit that will never die. Decide today how you wish to spend eternity. Whatever ties you to this earth will weigh you down. Your spirit was made to soar. Then detach yourself from all that will perish. Love without clinging; use the things of this world without becoming a slave to them yourself. Child, the time is upon you, and you see the beginnings already. What once felt firm beneath your feet is now becoming unstable. Be sure your feet are firmly planted on the rock—which is Christ—and the Church, against which the gates of hell will never prevail. My child, cultivate a spirit of holy detachment, trusting that all you need will be provided in this life and in the next.”
Jesus I trust in you. Help us to cultivate a spirit of holy detachment so that we may be free to cling to you—with both hands!
Sirach 11:14 Good and evil, life and death, poverty and riches, are from the LORD.
“My beloved little child, do you see how all that I allow comes from my benevolent heart? For even if evil befalls you, and your prayers seem to dissipate in the abyss, even then the Lord is near―so near―to one who places her trust in him. What the evil one means for your destruction, I use to bring about great works of goodness and growth in holiness. My child, whether you live in suffering or comfort, riches or poverty, give thanks to the Lord always, for his love for you will never fail.”
My Jesus, I praise and thank you through the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Mother for all you have given me. My Lord and my God, grant me the grace through Mary to become the willing slave of Jesus in Mary for your glory, O heavenly Father. Amen.
Luke 6:40 No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.
“My child, do you see how my Mother embodied this perfectly? Her humility, abject and pure, allowed her to perfectly imitate me. Only in this complete self-emptying was she then able to become a pure vessel completely filled by the Holy Spirit. There was nothing she clung to—even for an instant of her life—that did not lead directly to me.* So, as I received from her my human form, she received from me her spiritual form, the order of perfection. She, more than any other creature, has imitated me and been transformed into me. If, in your weakness, you are having difficulty imitating me, begin by imitating my Mother in her humility and poverty of attachment. If you do this, you will attain the goal you seek, which is perfect unity with your Beloved.”
Jesus you know how weak we are. Thank you for showing us this shortcut to you thorough consecration to your Mother. Grant us every grace, O Lord, that we might attain perfect union with you and live for you alone. Jesus in Mary, we trust in you. Amen.
(*In letting go of attachments, Our Lady did not let go of her duties, but sanctified them by bringing the Lord into each moment. In this way she lived a contemplative life in all the ordinary moments of the day, and let nothing come between her and her Beloved.)