Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Back in the Study

Christ is Risen! Truly He is risen!

It's been a while since I have posted  on my blog and I apologize for that. It was a busy time with all the activities and services of Great Lent, Holy Week and Easter. Add to that the normal daily oversight and administration of the Archdiocese, some challenges here and there in the Church, and some personal health issues and well...time just got away from me. This has led me to reflect quite a bit lately on how we live our lives and how distracted we can become when we lose our focus on what is truly important.

A person’s heart and mind cannot remain pure when they are focused on the things of this world. When I say pure, I am not just speaking of being sinless, but I am speaking as well of our physical and mental health. We can very easily corrupt our hearts and minds by spending too much time thinking about and doing "worldly" things. We cannot spend all our time chasing after the "American dream." Doing that only makes us depressed, stressed out, fat, alcoholics, drug addicts and sexually immoral.

In order for us to find true happiness and peace, we must focus our lives on the things of God. That is to say, we must look beyond this world to the life we are truly called. Now, that is not to say we cannot find some contentment, even real happiness in this world, but that can only happen when our lives are solidly rooted in the life of God.  Everything on earth is temporary but everything that is of God is enduring and eternal.

When we are concerned with material things, especially when we work hard at accumulating material treasures and wealth, when we have to have all the “toys”, we become distracted and unhappy, because every time we acquire something new, we eventually tire of it and want the newest and better version of it. We become dissatisfied and bored with what we have and we must then move on to the next level. This is sad because instead of being content with what we have, we want more and more. All this does is put more stress on us to make more money so that we can spend it on besting our friends, co-workers and colleagues. Some of us even go into debt because we simply refuse to live within our means. We simply cannot bear the fact that someone else is doing better than us or has more than us.

Living modestly is beautiful. Living with only what we need to get by and a little extra to do things with family and friends is so much more rewarding than expending tons of energy on trying to keep up with the Jones’ and all the credit card debt that goes along with it. You would be surprised how much happier you can be when your life is simpler and less complicated and your focus is on things like family and friends and living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In order to be truly happy in this world, in order to be truly the children of God, we must be simple people, humble people, people who seek their satisfaction not in the material things of this world but in the knowledge that what material possessions they do have are gifts and tools given to them so that they may do God’s work in this world.

God does not call all of us to live as monastics or ascetics. These are, like the priesthood and married life, vocations unto themselves. But we are all called to live the life of Christ. That is a vocation common to all Christians. It is a life that is simple and given only to serving and worshipping God. That means that we must be guileless and without sin. The manner of our daily living must be an example to others, an example that glorifies God at all times.

Our simplicity must be natural. It must flow from our heart. A natural simplicity becomes sanctification in so many wonderful ways. Simplicity in life is real freedom and brings about true happiness of mind and spirit. We can actually experience a euphoria that isn't possible when we busy ourselves  chasing down the empty offerings and promises of materialism.

We should never ridicule or make fun of someone who chooses to live a simple life. Just because they don’t surround themselves with a lot of material things doesn’t mean that they are unsuccessful, or that they are outcasts, or that they lack intelligence. Such is not the case at all. On the contrary, they have freed themselves of some of the temptations that cause us to look away from God and divert us from the path of true happiness. Living a simple life allows them to enjoy and appreciate things they do more fully and completely. They experience more happiness and joy in living a simple and modest life than those who have "all the toys."

In a similar vein, we should never despise those who are poor or who are otherwise deprived (orphans, the crippled, the homeless, etc.); God helps them and graces them with special gifts that can enrich our lives and make us better human beings. Certainly, God reveals to us through them many wonderful and spectacular things. The poor are a way to our redemption and salvation; a door, if you will, to eternal life.

Underneath the externals of an honestly lived simple life lies a wealth of hidden virtues. A simple life is protection against the temptations of the materialistic world; it is a battlement against the assaults of the evil one.

Looking at it through the eyes of a materialistic world, living a simple life seems like forced deprivation and hardship. Why would anyone want to live in such fashion? But those who see living a simple life as unattractive and as some kind of hardship really don’t understand what I am talking about here. I am not talking about living without electricity, or a bathroom, or without running water, etc. The simple life I speak of is a life with one car, not five $40K SUV’s; a reasonably priced house, not a $600,000 home on 5 acres of land in an exclusive gated community in the suburbs or country; no 50” flat screen television in every bedroom, but a decent television around which family members can gather and spend some quality time. The list can go on and on.

When was the last time you sat down for dinner with your children or parents and just talked about the events of the day without a cellphone being within reach? Or when was the last time you went to the movies together as a family? Or invited friends over for a summer weekend BBQ or just for dinner?

Living a simple life means not being a slave to your cell phone or the materialism of our secular society. Living a simple life means that our priorities our different; that things like spending quality time with friends happens more often in places like someone’s home than at the local bar or club. Living a simple life means that God has a place in it and that we recognize that all we have is from Him.

Many of us feel unfulfilled, depressed and worn out. Physical and emotional illness often is the result of what we bring upon ourselves. We spend so much time trying to keep up with others and amassing material wealth that we stress ourselves out. Certainly such a life affects our physical and emotional health. Inevitably we end up crying because regardless of how much we have, it means nothing if love is not in our lives. We may have the biggest and most beautiful house in the neighborhood but what good is it if love doesn’t exist there? So much money…so much pretense, what does it accomplish? Live the Gospel and you will build a home in heaven more splendid and magnificent than you could ever imagine!