Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Substraction May Be More Important Than Addition

Preparing for my sermon yesterday on "Blessed are those who are poor in spirit," I was helped by a passage  from a book written by a Korean priest. He mentioned that while studying in Austria, he was invited by a Korean family to come over to their house for a meal. He was forewarned that they had a mentally handicapped daughter who would often run around the dining room table making all kinds of noise.

That evening , while they were eating desert, the girl very quietly came to sit at the table, took a napkin and wiped from the lips of her father some of the desert that still remained there. The wife, with tears in her eyes and a choked voice, said, " Father, we have no special  expectations for the child, but it is moments like these that we live for." The girl knows that she breaks her parent's heart, and these acts are in compensation for the love she receives. These little acts are a great consolation to the parents.

In daily life, it is not the big things that give us strength and happiness but the small things.  It is when we get rid of our desire for material things that the road to happiness opens up before us.

Catholics are disposed to believe that the evangelical counsels of the Gospel are a blueprint for happiness, but the values of our culture say no, and there continues to be a conflict between the two. But it is more than likely that in time there will be sociological surveys that will put to rest which view of life is more conducive to happiness. The culture wants facts, and when the culture decides to uncover the facts, values will change.

Speaking from his own experience, the priest has been convinced that when we live without the  burden of  covetousness, we can expect great happiness in our lives. Though good appearance and health, achieved by losing weight, are goals appreciated by all, the priest would like to see the same effort given to decreasing the weight in our inner life. Whether it is the body or the spirit, the less baggage the more happiness. We should, he says, be more proficient in the art of subtraction than in the art of addition.                                                                                                                                                                                 

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