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We Cannot Run from Ourselves

Sometimes, no matter how hopeful I am about the future and the many changes I want to make in my life, within a few months I find myself back exactly where I was before. For years this frustrated me. Hope inevitably turned to disappointment. I couldn’t understand why, no matter how many times I moved, the same problems kept happening. Then a spiritual director shared an old quip: “Wherever you go, there you are.” As much as we would like to place the blame for our problems on some external factor, the cause of our problems often lies within us. It doesn’t matter where we live, what we do for a living, or who we associate with, we cannot run from ourselves. If we have anger in our hearts, we can run from our past enemies, but we will most certainly find new people with whom to fight. If we struggle with authority, we can change jobs, but we will undoubtedly have new problems at our next one.

—from the book Let Go: Seven Stumbling Blocks to Christian Discipleship by Casey Cole, OFM

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Christ Calls Us to the Here and Now

Following Christ does not mean that we have to give up our jobs, schools, love of sports and entertainment, playing video games, or our social media handles. At least, not necessarily. What it means is that we need to let go of everything that produces anxiety in us and takes up our time without any benefit to ourselves or the world; it means giving up the trivial worries that merely keep us busy, give us something to think about, offer an escape, or hide us from what really matters. Christ calls us to the here and now. He wants us to be present to people and things that actually make a difference. If we want to be his disciples, there is no time to waste living in a world that doesn’t exist. The kingdom is at hand, and it’s the only world we need.

—from the book Let Go: Seven Stumbling Blocks to Christian Discipleship by Casey Cole, OFM

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Jesus Never Promised Success

At no point in the Gospel does Jesus tell us that if we follow him our lives will be filled with success or that people will like us for it. Quite the contrary, actually! We follow a man who came to share the love of God with the world through healing and forgiveness, but was rejected by the religious elite, betrayed by his closest friends, and murdered as a common criminal. This is not simply Jesus’s fate many years ago, but ours today. “Take up your crosses daily,” he tells us. While there is nothing wrong with hoping for success in our lives, our faith is destined for problems if it becomes an expectation we cannot live without. The road of discipleship is filled with failure; if we demand that our lives be successful, we won’t make it very far.

—from the book Let Go: Seven Stumbling Blocks to Christian Discipleship by Casey Cole, OFM

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We Can't Limit God's Choice

How will we react when Jesus chooses to exalt the homeless person downtown, giving him immense wisdom that reveals to us that we actually know very little about life? What will we do when that woman we cannot stand, the one who made our life miserable for so long, is waiting for us next to Jesus, glorified in the kingdom of heaven? Being a disciple of Christ means abandoning our desire to choose who sits next to us at church, who is loved and forgiven, who God chooses to entrust with important tasks, and ultimately, who we spend eternity with. If the mission of Christ is like a dinner party in which we wait to respond to our invitation until we ask, “Who else is going to be there?” we might not be ready to follow him. When we place limits on who can enter and who God can use, we place limits on God and make an idol out of our faith.

—from the book Let Go: Seven Stumbling Blocks to Christian Discipleship by Casey Cole, OFM

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Jesus Does Not Want Masks

Jesus does not want masks. He does not want projections of our superficial selves that bear no resemblance to who we really are. When he calls us to follow after him, he does not want the person we wish we were or the person we pretend to be. No, when he calls us, he wants the person he created, the person we are becoming in his love, our truest selves. If we want to follow after him, we must strip ourselves of everything that is superficial, inauthentic, forced, or pretend. We need to let go of all those partial and superficial selves. They just get in the way.

—from the book Let Go: Seven Stumbling Blocks to Christian Discipleship by Casey Cole, OFM

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We Need Help to Get Through the Day

We are weak. We are vulnerable. We need tremendous help just to survive the day. Everything we have and everything we do is the result of Jesus loving us first, of him giving us the strength we need to continue. When we hide our flaws even from ourselves, believing even for a second that we don’t have any or that our flaws are so minuscule that we do not need help from anyone, that we possess within ourselves all the strength we will ever need to live a happy and healthy life, we unwittingly cut ourselves off from the true source of strength: the grace of the Holy Spirit. If we don’t think we need help, we’ll never feel compelled to ask for it. What a shame it would be to stop asking God for help.

—from the book Let Go: Seven Stumbling Blocks to Christian Discipleship by Casey Cole, OFM

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Only One Thing Brings Eternal Joy

An infinite number of things will bring us comfort, satisfaction, and even happiness, and they may be good for a while. But only one thing can bring us eternal joy: following Jesus Christ and becoming a part of his mission. Jesus wants each and every one of us to be his disciples. He wants us to let go of anything and everything that gets in the way of following him, that prevents us from trusting completely, that holds us back from throwing ourselves headlong into the mission.

—from the book Let Go: Seven Stumbling Blocks to Christian Discipleship by Casey Cole, OFM

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We Cannot Control the Mission

Time and again, my little worldview is shaken by something wider; my plans are almost always dashed by bigger, better ones. If I’ve learned anything as a friar, it is that being a Christian means leaving behind absolutely everything I can imagine and being totally fine with accepting whatever God gives me—big or small, happy or painful. No matter what I come to expect, no matter how large and creative I think my imagination is, I always fall short of what God wants to accomplish. We cannot control the mission, and any attempt to cling to what we think we want only serves to slow down our own complete abandonment to Christ’s leadership.

—from the book Let Go: Seven Stumbling Blocks to Christian Discipleship by Casey Cole, OFM

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Change Is Good News

The Good News of Jesus Christ is precisely that things have changed and that they are going to change even more. He came to a world that was stuck, to a people that could not find a way out of their sinfulness, to announce that there was another way. Better yet, he came not simply to announce this path and carry us there as passive recipients of grace, but empowered his followers to bring about the kingdom of which he spoke. The kingdom of God is at hand. It is not simply a far distant reality, but something that is inbreaking here and now, something that can be felt and brought about by those who live in communion with him. In the way we love one another, work for justice, and offer sacrifice—doing as Jesus did—we can actually make a difference in our world because it is in these moments that Christ dwells in us and the Holy Spirit is sent forth from us. What is it that we always pray? “Send down your Spirit and renew the face of the earth!” If we want to follow after Jesus, we must let go of our cynicism and bleak outlook on the world, and instead believe with all our hearts that Christ is in control of this mission. We must look beyond what is not yet redeemed and open our eyes to the overflowing torrent that is God’s love in our world, transforming and renewing the face of the earth. We must realize it is through us, those whom Jesus has called as his disciples, that this work is being accomplished.

—from the book Let Go: Seven Stumbling Blocks to Christian Discipleship by Casey Cole, OFM

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