Print Version    Email to Friend
The world is real

The question of detachment occurs in every religious community. Through the ages, people have recognised that true freedom comes through detachment. If we are obsessed with our possessions, then those now things possess us—we no longer possess them.

Some religions teach us to withdraw completely from the world, detaching ourselves from everything, even life itself. Others teach us to withdraw from the world as far as possible, perhaps living a monastic kind of life, or perhaps living as our ancestors did, without anything modern.

Our Christian teaching is careful about the teaching of detachment. Certainly, we need the true freedom, which comes from not being possessed by anything.

St. Ignatius of Loyola is a good guide. Ignatius counselled radical detachment. “We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one.” This true freedom enables us to live closely with our God.

Yet we do not try to escape from the world. The woman who tries to flee to a convent will find that the world is just as present inside the convent as it was outside, though in different ways.

The man, who tries to flee from the city to the countryside, will find that the people of a village are just as human as the people of the city. Escape is not a practical option.

As Christians, we celebrate that Jesus the Christ was born among
us in Bethlehem. Jesus did not attempt to escape from our world: rather, he entered it fully and freely. The radical detachment, which Jesus preached, never took his
listeners out of the world. The Christian teaching, which we call incarnation, reminds us that Jesus fully entered our world with all
its joys and sorrows, its busy-ness and its quiet, its violence and its peace.

A simple guideline, which St. Paul gave to the Christians at Corinth, can be found in today’s readings. “Those who have to deal with the world should not become engrossed in it.”

We have to work, we have to make a living. We might do this with our hands, or from as desk. But we do these in a generous detachment, not obsession. St. Paul wants us to love our spouses without obsession, to grieve without obsession, to enjoy without being obsessed with pleasure, to do business without being obsessed with possessions.

Good guidance can be found in the works of St. Francis de Sales, a true saint and, at the same time a practical man who led his diocese in difficult times and uncertain finances.

He gave practical advice to people who could not run away from their duties. His teaching gives a way to perfection by living the virtuous life. He gives a tool for doing business.

If we sell, put ourselves in the shoes of the buyer; if a buyer, into the shoes of a seller. And it can be easily adapted to far more complex transactions, where many people are involved.

A few weeks ago we celebrated the birth of Jesus, the incarnation in which God took flesh and came fully into our world. It is here that we live our loves and our grief, our enjoyment and our work.

It is here in the world that we live with Jesus. It is here in the world that we slowly learn to love God and our neighbour.