Sunday, August 18, 2013

Happy Indeed is the Man...

A priest who writes a bulletin for priests notes the answers  received from  the question: What does religion mean to you?

Religion, said one respondent, means sharing what you have and following our Lord like the saints of old: emptying ourselves. But, the priest opines, is this all there is to our religious life?

Others said it means a life of sacrifice; asking for blessings, money and the like,is a worldly thing, not a holy thing. And when they do ask for these things, they feel uncomfortable, they said, as if doing something they should not be doing.  

Then there are those who feel their religion should help them to live a fuller life, and there should be no embarrassment in asking for whatever help they need to achieve this. When we think that asking is not the right thing to do we will have psychological problems, because we were created to satisfy our desires, they said.

When we are not able to satisfy our desires, the mental pain can be great. When children do not  receive what they want they are distressed and can leave home and can become defiant. Adults can try to alleviate their anger by liquor. When we don't receive what we want we fall into despondency, which becomes a way of life. This can also be applied to our religious life.

Devotion  in our religious life  can be seen as the result of the many graces we have received. When we have received much we can hope for more and give thanks for what we have received. Others who did not receive what they want often see religion as meaningless and easily discard it.  Both those that receive and those that do not are looking  at the balance sheet, which then determines their state of mind.

We are self-centered creatures, and when we receive what we want we become more devoted and pray more zealously. All the  examples he has given above involve desires that stem from our perceived needs, and not from a desire to serve God. He gives the example of a person who comes to us with a gift, hoping for something in return, and contrasts that with a person who gives because he likes us and gives unconditionally. We prefer, of course, the one who gives unconditionally. And our relationship with that person changes, knowingly and unknowingly.

The priest finishes his article with a quote from the first psalm, verses 2-3: Happy indeed is the man...whose delight is the law of the Lord and who ponders his law day and night. He is like a tree that is planted beside the flowing waters that yields its fruit in due season and whose leaves shall never fade." To ask for blessings is a good thing, but according to the psalm, we receive more by our efforts to live a God-like existence. Doing what God wants us to do in our daily life will open ourselves up to receive everything we need and more. Doing so will yield fruit in abundance.