According to the astronomical calendar Autumn begins today, September 23rd. Albert Einstein tells us to “look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.” In his teaching, Jesus often used examples from nature. Autumn leaves are subtle reminders that we are asked to let go of many things throughout our lives. Autumn’s energy causes us to take stock and decide what to hold on to and what to let go. No new growth will come unless Autumn agrees to let go of what has been. The same is true of our lives.
In today’s gospel, Jesus challenges his disciples to let go of two of their misconceptions. Firstly, he wanted to prepare them for bad news (the Passion) and good news (the Resurrection), but they did not want to hear him. Jesus’ prediction of the future was incomprehensible because it did not coincide with the disciples’ hopes and plans. Secondly, Jesus presents to his disciples a completely different interpretation of the word ‘greatness’, one which involves service, of being last. We’re not told their reaction to this but we can imagine that they also found it difficult to accept. Maybe they felt like the man who fell over the edge of a cliff and on the way down managed to grab a branch that stopped his fall. Hanging in midair, he called up to heaven in desperation, “Is there anyone up there?” A voice answered, “Let go of the branch. I’ve got you.” The man hung there in silence for a moment, looking up and then down at the yawning gulf beneath him. Finally he looked up and yelled, “Is there anybody else up there?”
When we let go of the branch of our security, we will find that it is really but a short drop to the ground below, where we will find God waiting for us. He does not strip us of all that we have but rather teaches us to use all that we have in ways that benefit not only ourselves but also those around us who appear to be in more need than we are. Whenever we are called to let go of something safe, secure and familiar we are invited to be birthed again. Each radical change in our lives summons us to a greater fullness, to a more complete transformation of our inner self.