In his reflections before leading the Sunday Angelus on 15 January, Pope Francis says that to make way for the Lord in our lives and be of service to others, we need to break free of any personal attachments that can interfere in our spiritual growth.
In his customary address before leading the Sunday Angelus prayer in Saint Peter’s Square, Pope Francis spoke about the witness of John the Baptist we hear in the daily Gospel where after baptizing Jesus he says “After me comes a man who ranks before me, for he was before me.” These words reflect John’s spirit of service, the Pope observed, as John has prepared the way for the Messiah and is now ready to step aside.
Spirit of Service
One might think that John the Baptist would have been given a “prize,” or prominent place in Jesus’ public ministry, the Pope said, but instead, John knew he had accomplished his mission and, having seen the Spirit descend upon Jesus, he indicates him as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” John has preached to the people, gathered and trained disciples, but he has not bound himself to anyone, “the sign of a true educator,” the Pope went on to say, as he has done his job, and is not interested in holding on to a following or being praised for his success. John “bears witness and then steps back, so that many may have the joy of meeting Jesus.”
Freedom from attachments
John’s spirit of service and the ability to step aside, mission accomplished, shows the importance of the need to be free from attachments, the Pope explained, as it is easy to become “attached” to our positions in life, and the need to be esteemed and rewarded. While it is natural to wish to be recognized, “service involves gratuitousness, taking care of others without benefit for oneself,” and can become secondary when we grow attached to our own wishes. The Pope said, like John, we can cultivate the virtue of stepping aside at the right time and so bear witness that Jesus is the point of reference in our lives.
“To step aside, to learn to take one’s leave: I have completed this mission, I have had this meeting, I will step aside and leave room to the Lord. To learn to step aside, not to take something for ourselves in recompense.”
Knowing when to step aside
The Pope acknowledged the various roles people may have, such as a priest called to preach the Good News and celebrate the sacraments in order to accompany others to Jesus; or parents raising their children with great sacrifices so that their offspring may then take their own path in life. This time of education, presence and accompaniment, even among friends, couples or community life, involves service always, and not control and attachment by one’s ego of others, the Pope added. Knowing when to step aside, freeing oneself from possible attachments of our own ego and wishes, is challenging, he admitted, but essential as the decisive step “to grow in the spirit of service.”
The Pope recommended we look at our own lives and ask ourselves if we also make room for others in our lives, listen openly to them, and acknowledge their freedom, without demanding recognition for what we do for them. He asked if we know how to rejoice when people take their own path and follow their calling, even if that means we have to let go of them, as well as whether we rejoice in their achievements with sincerity.
“May Mary, the servant of the Lord, help us to be free from attachments, to make way for the Lord and to give space to others.”
Following the Angelus, Pope Francis asked everyone to remember the suffering people of Ukraine.
“Brothers and sisters, let us not forget the battered people of Ukraine who are suffering so much. Let us stay close to them with our thoughts, with our help, and with our prayers.”
With thanks to Vatican News and Thaddeus Jones, where this article originally appeared.