To be sure, a certain detachment from the things of this world and even from people is required of us if we want to be a true and effective disciple of Christ. He himself said it quite clearly: “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14,26-17)
We obviously have to understand these words properly. We are men and women with material and emotional needs. We cannot let go of our loved ones if we want to retain our humanity, and of course, of our Christianity. But we have to realize that meeting these human needs should be animated by the proper spirit of love that Christ is showing and giving us. It should not displace such spirit.
Again, let’s be reassured of what Christ promised us if we observe the proper priorities in our life. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Mt 6,33) And, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for the sake of My name will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” (Mt 19,29)
We need to have a certain detachment from persons and things to be able to give our heart entirely to God, and with him, we actually have everything else we need. As St. Teresa of Avila put it graphically, with God we have enough—“solo Dios basta.”
So the detachment our Lord is asking of us actually does not mean that we hate our life, our parents and others, and the things of this world. Rather it is a detachment that asks of us to have rectitude of intention, that everything that we do be for the glory of God.
To be a disciple of Christ, we have to give everything of ourselves to him and to the tasks such discipleship entails. This will allow the very power of Christ to work on us. So instead of hindering our apostolic work, that detachment that Christ requires of his disciples would only enhance that work.
Detachment does not remove our involvement and engagement in our human, earthly and temporal affairs. It simply puts them in the right context and the right direction. It frees us from unnecessary baggage. It improves our vision and understanding of things, and predisposes our heart to the real love which can only be a sharing in God’s love.
We should not be afraid to go through the required sacrifices and self-denial that this proper sense of detachment would involve, since these can only lead us to the joy and peace meant for us. We need to do better than have a shallow and narrow view of our earthly life, giving knee-jerk reactions to things.
We need to give due attention to this duty of rectifying and purifying our intention, filling it with love, and expressing it with generosity and heroism even. We should do away with any ulterior motive we would be tempted to have. Our problem is precisely our tendency to take this duty for granted, and so we open ourselves to the subtle forces of pride, greed, lust, envy, anger, gluttony, sloth, etc. Christian detachment protects and liberates us from these dangers.*