Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Can You Cast Away Good Things?

In The Two Towers, when Aragorn's company finds Merry and Pippin again, he returns Pippin's elven brooch. "It was a wrench to let it go," the hobbit admits. Aragorn answers him: "One who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters."

Everything is temporary. Even very good things are still temporal and - more importantly - not God.  Money is not, itself, evil. Sex is not evil. Wine is not evil. Food is not evil. The abuse of these things - of anything or anyone - is. We get that.  We don't always do it, but we get it.

We get less, I think, that attachment to these things is also wrong. I may drink only in moderation, but can I pass up that one drink at night to drive a friend home? I make sure that I go to Mass first, then come home and watch the game. Do I get upset when I'm further delayed by my children asking for help? St. Paul reminds us that "we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Cor 4:18)  We should not set our eyes even on good things of this world, because those good things are not our goal. We don't want to focus on the rungs of the ladder; we want to focus on the place to which we're climbing.

"Not idly do the leaves of Lorien fall", but fall they must. None of the things around us are ours to keep. The elves had to surrender their realm to the will of God and so must we. Anything we cannot let go, any leaf that we refuse to let fall, is an idol. It is something we care about more than God, because that thing - whatever it is - is really God's. It is on loan to us.

Everything is a gift. Do we care more for the gift or the giver?

Galadriel showed wisdom when she surrendered to the will of God rather than accept the ring. "I will diminish... and remain Galadriel."  This is the wisdom of John the Baptist, who said that "I must decrease".

Contrast this with the Mouth of Sauron. (Check the extended edition DVD extras, people who have not read the books.  Or, better yet, read the books.*)   He had no name, for he had long since forgotten it.  He lost himself by taking up Sauron. Galadriel let go of her desires, her wants, her plans. She surrendered herself and, in so doing, won herself. She remained Galadriel.

That is the choice before us when facing any idol - money, sex, power, food, mysterious enchanted jewelry. It may be a wrench to let it go, but we must, if we are to remain ourselves.

* Regina Doman once warned that anyone that doesn't read The Lord of the Rings in this life will find a gilt-edged copy waiting for them in purgatory. Why risk it?

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