Summary: There are two ways to become miserable, and two ways to become happy.
26th Sunday in Course 2015
What is the most important issue in anybody’s life? What is it that we must have in order to be truly fulfilled? What, to appeal to you Latinists, is the sine qua non of human existence? Some consider it to be pleasure, and an absence of pain. They are the ones who rammed through the California legislature recently a bill that I call the “kill grandma legally so we can get her money” act. In their eagerness to corrupt the medical profession by making doctors into professional hit men they adopt a demeanor of compassion. As history has proved in the Netherlands, if the bill becomes law, in less than a generation people who are inconveniently old, or disabled, will be murdered against their will.
To this kind of fake mercy we answer “not on my watch.” Killing the old or disabled devalues the valiant and heroic efforts of those who care for them, and dehumanizes those whose lives are more than the sum of their suffering. Don’t we all know or remember men, women, or children who, though sick to death, fight bravely to the end and find in the passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ a greater meaning in their lives than the phrase “ain’t it awful”?
Some consider the goal of life to be honor and power and the fawning respect of others. They use every means–good or evil–to claw their way to the top. Or they spend inordinate time and money on their appearance and on personal training for success or presentation. They forget that the true goal of those in authority is to serve others–especially the marginalized and poor. In their zeal for success and admiration, it is all too easy to step on the other guy, and rationalize our behavior by facile phrases like “it is what it is.” Politicians–especially celebrity politicians–capitalize on crime and xenophobia to gain votes and influence, and will promise anything the public wants, even the impossible, without any intention of promoting anyone’s agenda but their own.
To this kind of lust for authority, the Ultimate Authority says of Himself, “The Son of Man came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life for the ransom of many.”
These words lead us to the first of the two realities that are really the sine qua non of human existence. I discovered that over fifty years ago when I first participated in delivering food and gifts to a poor family at Christmas. The discovery was that I could be happiest when doing something good for someone incapable of doing it for themselves. Service of the poor and marginalized is good, not just for the receiver, but especially for the giver. As you have heard time and time again, we have an obligation to share our time, our talent and our treasure. That’s not just something we have to do so that God doesn’t give us a spanking. That’s something we do because the gift enriches our souls. The gift costs much less than you receive in your heart. Because God is the giver of all gifts, He uses our hands to give to the poor, to the sick, to the homeless, to the refugee, to the unborn, and to the service of the Church. And our total wealth of time, talent and treasure isn’t diminished. It’s the miracle of Christ working out in our individual lives.
There is one more reality we must consider. The time and talent and treasure we spend in responding to the call of Jesus to union with the Father does not diminish us either. It enriches us even beyond service. Moreover, it is something everyone can do, no matter our health, our bank account, or our ability to build houses or teach religion. When we spend time in prayer, we are not spending at all. We are investing of ourselves and get returns far better than we can get on Wall Street. Let’s consider the act of praise, as an example. Try this experiment. Every morning for the next month, let your first words when you get up in the morning be the words of Psalm 117. It’s the shortest chapter in the Bible. You can memorize it in less than a minute. Say it after me: Praise the Lord, all you nations. . .Glorify Him, all you peoples. . .Steadfast is His loving kindness toward us. . .and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. You can end it with the Glory be, but see how short and direct and true and beautiful this prayer is. Can you imagine how that simple prayer of praise will brighten your day, even a bad day? I challenge you to try this every day for a month. If it makes your life better, tell a friend. If it makes your life worse, come and tell me.