15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
A minister appeared unusually cheerful, though he was suffering severe affliction. One of his parishioners asked the secret of his contentment. “I have a right use of my eyes,” was his serious reply. “Your eyes? I don’t understand,” said the parishioner. “It is very simple,” replied the minister. “First, I look up to heaven and remember that that it is where I’m going.” “Next I look down on the earth and realize how small a place I shall occupy when I am dead and buried.” “Finally, I look around and see the many people who are in much worse condition than I am.”
St. Paul, in today’s second reading, is somehow saying that we should always be content because we are blessed. Paul is reminding us how blessed we are: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing.” He is also telling us, “God administers everything according to his will and counsel.” In other words, God knows best. God knows what is the best for us.
Contentment celebrates grace – every spiritual blessing. The contented heart is satisfied with the Giver and is, therefore, freed from craving the next gift. No Christian who possesses God within him or her and who has received and continues to receive countless blessings from God, has reason to complain and grumble, to be sad and discontent.
According to Paul David Tripp, sin does two significant things to us all.
First, sin causes us all to insert ourselves into the center of our worlds – making life all about us. In our self-focus, in our self-centeredness, we are all too motivated by our wants, our needs, and our feelings. And because we are, we tend to be more aware of what we do not have than of the many wonderful blessings that we have been given. But there is more. Because we are self-focused, we tend to be scorekeepers, constantly comparing our piles of stuff to the piles of others. It is a life of discontentment and envy. Envy is always selfish, always self-centered.
Second, sin causes us to look horizontally for what can only ever be found vertically. Due to sin, we ask creation to be our ‘savior’ and we expect created things to give us what need. So, we look to persons and things for happiness and joy, for hope and peace, for motivation and inspiration, for rest and satisfaction, for fulfillment and contentment, for identity and security, for meaning and purpose.
The problem is that nothing in creation can give you these things. Creation or any created thing for that matter was never designed to satisfy your heart. Paul David Tripp has this beautiful reflection: “Creation was made to be one big finger pointing us to the One who alone has the ability to satisfy our heart.” Whatever brings us fleeting happiness and enjoyment now points to the One who alone can bring us eternal gladness. Whatever gives us some semblance of security points to the One who alone is our true refuge. Whatever offers us meaning and fulfillment points to the One who alone can give us the fullness of life in his Kingdom.
So, creatures and created things are ‘pointers’ to the Creator. They are supposed to be pointing to the Lord who blesses and lead us to our final destination, and not otherwise. They are not to be our landing places. When you are satisfied with the Giver, because you have found in him the life you were looking for, you are freed from the ravenous desire for satisfaction – which is the discouraging existence of so many people. Yes, it is true, as St. Augustine says: Your heart will rest only when it has found its rest in God.
Let us end with a prayer: Lord God, we bless and praise You for blessing us in Christ with every spiritual blessing. Grant us the grace of contentment. Give us a heart that is content: more given to joyful worship than to demand and complain, more given to the joy of gratitude than to the anxiety of want. Lord, teach us to appreciate and enjoy life for this alone can bring us contentment and happiness. Amen.