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Why is spiritual detachment necessary?

Have you made an idol out of chocolate? (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

In my post last week we defined spiritual detachment as getting rid of our selfish clinging to things or persons other than God in response to His love for us. Today I would like to address why detachment is necessary.

St. John of the Cross, co-founder of the Order of Discalced Carmelites and a doctor of the Church, wrote, “The soul that desires God to surrender Himself to it entirely must surrender itself to Him without keeping anything for itself.” Wouldn’t you like to have God completely give Himself to you, holding nothing back? Then you must give yourself completely to Him. When you keep God at arm’s length, you cannot grow very close to Him!

Likewise, if your soul is full of earthly things, you leave no room for God. Consuming spiritual junk food leaves no room for what really nourishes us. Only God can satisfy our longing for happiness. The more we try to make ourselves happy through material things and other people, the less happy we will be. We were made for union with God. Nothing less will suffice.

Disordered attachments equal idols

Attachments are a kind of idolatry. When we are unwilling to let go of our grasp on things, even for the sake of God, we have made a little god out of them.  We are implicitly saying that they are at least as important to us as God is.

Are you often distracted during prayer? When a friend or family member speaks to you, do you find your mind wandering to your own concerns? Sometimes this is a result of wrong attachments.

We have not learned how to trust God with our lives, so we are not at peace. We have constant worries and preoccupations. They sap our energy and weaken our relationships with God and other people.

You can’t see God (or anything) clearly with a log in your eye

File:The Enthroned Trinity as Three Identical Figures.jpg
The Enthroned Trinity as Three Identical Figures (Photo: Wikimedia Commons).

Attachments also cloud our vision.  Jesus said we need to remove the plank from our eye in order to see clearly. That plank might be sin, or it might be attachments. Our ability to give good advice and real help to other people is jeopardized by them. (See Matthew 7:3-5.)

Finally, no one can see God face-to-face in Heaven, if he is attached to something else. We must be absolutely pure and God-focused first. Being purged from our inordinate attachments is not optional. That is where Purgatory comes in. The more tightly we cling to things while on earth, the longer and harder our Purgatory will be. Since we have to be purged sooner or later, why not—as St. Teresa of Ávila was fond of saying—make a virtue of necessity, and start the process now? Wouldn’t being at peace immediately after death be worth the price of letting go of things that can never make us happy anyway?

Are there things that are holding you back from God? What would be difficult for you to give up? It might be as small as a cup of coffee or as big as a close friendship. Take some time today to meditate on this.  Now is the moment to start letting go, so you can grasp more firmly onto God.

Connie Rossini

Share with us: What are you struggling to let go of? What practical steps are you taking to be less attached?