Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tolle ... Lege!

A few years ago I wrote about a young woman named Maggie Doyne. She grew up in the same small, wealthy suburb in Northern New Jersey as I. (Albeit nearly a decade later!) When she graduated from high school, she took a different path than the rest of her classmates (nearly all of whom were embarking on four years of parent-funded college education). Instead of studying, she went to Nepal and built an orphanage... using money she earned babysitting to purchase the land! Robert Frost would certainly describe her path as the “one less travelled.” “And that” I am quite certain, “has made all the difference.”

Now, I have never met Maggie, and all I know about her and her work has been gleaned from a couple of newspaper articles and her website (which, by the way, I encourage you to visit). Here is a little snippet:

Kopila Valley Children's Home from maggie doyne on Vimeo.

The lives she and “her” children lead are far from easy, but there is a profound joy is quite evident in their faces.

As I look at the Scripture readings from today and yesterday, a few things strike me.

As we enter into Lent, we ask ourselves, “What will I give up this year?” Isaiah points out, however, that we have to move past the “I.” Instead, we need to look outward: to the oppressed, the hungry, the naked and the homeless. Instead of simply heading off to college, Maggie placed her own education aside and instead devoted her life to the anawim of Nepal. In doing so she has become, in the words of Isaiah, a “Restorer of ruined homesteads.”

Today’s Gospel tells the story of Levi the tax collector. Christ commanded him to “Follow me.” “And leaving all behind, he got up and followed him.” He left one way of life behind, and embarked on a completely different one. Just last week, we heard that after Jesus healed the blind Bartimaeus “he followed [Jesus] on the way.” Unlike Levi, however, Jesus did not order Bartimaeus to follow him; instead he said, “Go your way.” However, after his encounter with Jesus, Bartimaeus’ way was Christ’s way.

Contrast these two stories, for a moment, with a similar one with a very different ending. Not long ago, we heard the story of Jesus and the Rich Young Man. (Luke 18:18-25) This official had done ‘all the right things’: he followed the commandments to the letter and felt quite justified in his life. He wanted to know what he needed to do to earn eternal life. Jesus’ answer was simple: “follow me”. However, in order for the officials’ “way” to be Jesus’ “Way” he first had to “sell all that [he had] and distribute it to the poor.” Well, that was just too much for the man. He was too attached to his old way of life. It was one where he was in control, and he simply had to do the right things.

Letting go. Detaching. Turning away. Once we do that, we are able to start to follow God’s plan, and become one with Christ. Only then will His Way be our way. That’s what Lent is all about. When we focus our efforts on helping others, we naturally turn it away from ourselves. Maggie did, and her life is the richer for it. She is an Icon of the selfless service Christ calls us to offer. In fact, I am quite sure her story is a sacrament of the life offered totally to others.

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