My Own Heart

Do you ever hear a reading on Sunday and think to yourself, “Huh. I wonder why that made the cut?” The lectionary is put together with a purpose, but sometimes a reading doesn’t quite seem to fit with the pattern of what you would expect. As I initially read through the readings for this Sunday, the letter from Paul was just exactly that reading.  The Gospel is a challenging one today, and a more typical Paul letter filled with encouragement and flowery wording about loving God would have seemed fitting; instead we hear about Onesimus—a pretty much unknown character in the Bible.

I have to admit something to you—it is currently 2:51 a.m., and I’m sitting up writing my bulletin article. Why? Because tomorrow my sweet Clare starts preschool, and I can’t turn off my brain. I’ve been tossing and turning for over an hour thinking about her first day tomorrow, how she’s grown up so fast, hoping and praying that preschool and her years of schooling beyond are filled with growth and friendship. I’m laying here thinking about everyone sending their kids back to school, whether elementary, middle school, high school, or college. I’ve been thinking about the new teens who will take part in Perissos, and about our seniors who just graduated and are off to college. It’s almost 3 a.m. and my brain doesn’t want to stop thinking about the ages and stages of life—especially in regards to my 3 year old.

So, after an hour of tossing and turning, I decided I would do something productive. I got out my phone, opened up the readings for this weekend, and initially thought, “Great.  The “hate your family” Gospel. Can’t wait to write about this!” And then I paused, asked the Lord to reveal to me what he wanted to say, and reread. And the Lord left me with a simple question. “Don’t you realize that Jesus knew he had to let go of his disciples?”

Have you ever thought about that? Jesus had 3 years of active ministry, before he had to let go. He let go of his life on the cross for us, but he also had to let go of his earthly relationships. He knew there was an end to the life he was leading, surrounded by his friends and disciples. He knew he was going somewhere they couldn’t go yet. And I have to believe the very human part of him grieved at the idea of letting go. And from that perspective, His words in the Gospel today aren’t quite as harsh. He’s trying to prepare them—to say “it won’t be like this forever. You need to be ready to give it all up for me, even when I’m not here standing beside you.”

With that question in mind, I reread our second reading and could see—so much more clearly—why the Church in her wisdom chose this reading. In this reading, we get a sense of Paul’s deep love for Onesimus and his knowledge that the best thing he could do was to send him back to Phillemon. “I am sending him, that is, my own heart back to you.” It was hard for Paul, but He knew that it was what the Lord was asking of Him. And because he loved Jesus first, He had the strength to do it.

Ultimately, that is what all these readings are about; Jesus is calling us to love Him first. Our love for Jesus needs to be first, because it is through my love of God that I can best love others—my family, friends, and those I minister to. If I love God first and choose to listen for His call, I can let go where He is calling me to, for the betterment of myself and for those I love.

The Lord calls each of us to do as He wills—and to let go when the time is right. And as He reminds us in the first reading, “. . . who can conceive what the Lord intends?” I do not know the whole picture right now. I don’t know the plans the Lord has for Clare. But I know that He is good.  I know that his plans for her are good and that He is calling me to let go in this way. And so tomorrow—I will send “my own heart” off to school—for her good and for mine.


Youth Minister


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