by Fr. Daniel Considine, 1950’s
“Charity seeketh not her own.” The theory of the world is the exact opposite to the one the Apostle lays down. We have all grown up in the teaching to “seek our own”; we are trained to make an idol of ourselves.
Everyone ought to look after herself, be her own center: all little empresses in our own rights. We call it proper self-respect. ‘I’ come first. We have our rights, and must push them.
The more I gather about myself power, riches, rank, the better. I must have a kingdom of my own, which I can rule. My will is given me so that I may get my own way: my mind, that I may impose it on others. The first thought is, How will this affect me? A fine day – not, is it good for others, is it good for me?
“You surely don’t think I am here to look after others, and if I don’t look after myself, who else will look after me?” How dreadfully narrow we most of us are! If we are of a strong character, we push others aside; if of a weak, we feel great resentment at being pushed aside by others.
I love myself, too, in my love of other people. I love my friend because she helps me, is useful to me. Few understand how largely this idea shapes their life. We are pleased or displeased just exactly as things affect us. Advance, we are told, your own interests: if such a line of conduct will cause inconvenience, away with it: as for other people, let them look after themselves.
Let us try and lead a more noble life. Take “unselfishness.” The nearer you approach to this, the nearer you approach to the most noble life possible to our human nature. The less you exact for yourself, the higher perfection you will attain to.
Just in proportion as you think of yourself and your work in reference to others rather than for yourself, the nearer you will grow to Jesus Christ Himself.
Do all for the sake of God, and for others. Escape from all sorts of worry and responsibility, study only your own wishes and advantage, and you will find your conscience perpetually reproaching you.
What is God’s view of sin? It is not permissible to commit with deliberation one venial sin to bring about the conversion of the entire human race. It is not lawful to tell a single lie, or give way to a feeling of uncharitableness, to bring about a thing in itself excellent and desirable.
Why? Because a sin has this essential about it, it is displeasing to God. No soul in Heaven could possibly do anything against Him. It is because we do not know God, or understand how good He is, that we misconceive the nature of sin. Every venial sin gives God a great deal of pain, and so for nothing in the world must we commit it.
How can I become unselfish, thinking little of myself? How can I help living for my own comfort and aggrandizement? I can do my actions for God, and try to keep out the thought of myself.
If you are always thinking of your own aches and pains, you won’t console others much. If you are always sympathizing with yourself, you are a sort of Job’s comforter when you go to help others.
Our thoughts should be first of God; then, how can I help others? How can I shield others from trouble? True religion does not consist in trying to oust others. If it is only that you are in search of happiness, be as unselfish as you can.
Are the intensely selfish, happy people? No one likes someone else to lord it over him. Who loves a selfish person? At the lowest, don’t be selfish.
But we are not going to take the lowest. The more unselfish we are, the nearer we draw to Our Lord. If we try to seek, not ourselves, but our Lord, we shall find Him.
If we ourselves are burdened with care and trouble, try and help another in his trouble. Unselfishness gives out a kind of effulgence-light.
His visit, people say, helps me to be better. The more we go out of ourselves, the more we put ourselves in the background, the more work we shall do for God.
Time and Eternity
We must be very ignorant or very willful if we pronounce out of hand that every short life is a failure any more than that every long life is a success. The true measure of our actions is not their time but their intensity. “One crowded hour of glorious life is worth an age without a name” is not only good poetry but good sense.
No life that has accomplished what God asked of it, and has borne the fruit for which it was fitted, can be called incomplete, nor can its end be untimely. Even the pagans of old could understand that length of days is not always a blessing. Hence the proverb: “Whom the gods love die young.” They could see and feel the temporal miseries of life and esteem those happy who were soon beyond their reach.
How much more can the Christian believe that God may, in mercy and not in wrath, contract the span of human life, to make it, not less but more beautiful and pure, so that of such a one the words of the Book of Wisdom might be true: “He was taken away lest wickedness should alter his understanding or deceit beguile his soul. For the bewitching of vanity obscureth good things.”
This mortal scene is carefree enough while it endures, full of glitter, and glare, and show, and pretense, of tinsel and make-believe, with nothing solid underneath; its laughter is hollow, its professions insincere.
Even if it were to give of its best, its best cannot satisfy the hungry soul. Its prizes so eagerly coveted, so fiercely contested, only serve to sharpen the appetites they were intended to soothe. The rich always crave for more riches, the ambitious grasp at larger power.
If we do not lift our eyes above the horizon of this world, and all it contains, and if we listen to its babble, and worship at its shrines, we shall attain little heart’s ease, but a good deal of distraction of mind.
All this world’s attempts at comfort labor under one incurable defect – they are as short-lived as their origin.
How can a world minister lasting consolation when it is itself hastening to its end. We who breathe its atmosphere, and have been brought up in its ways, find it hard not to take it at its own valuation. It is always telling us how fine and grand and happy it is, how good it is to have it as a friend, how dangerous for a foe.
It will fawn on us if we despise it, and trample on us if we show fear. It will make a hundred promises because it never means to make them good. It can even put on a mask of piety and goodness in order the better to deceive.
It will go a greater part of the way with us in order to turn down a by-path and mislead us further on. To keep us amused, to forbid us serious thought, to hoodwink us that we may not see whither we are tending, is its settled policy, and the secret of its sway.
Yet all the while it is travelling towards its inevitable goal; kingdoms rise and fall, old forces enter into new combinations, ancient problems appear under novel names, everything changes but the process of change itself.
A few more years, a few compared with eternity, and this earth itself and all the works with which man has covered it, its cities, its palaces, its towers, will be given over to the flames. The visible heavens themselves shall be burnt up like a scroll.
What will then become of all the kingdoms of this world and the glory of them? If any man has gained the whole world he must then lose it, because it will itself have ceased to be. It will have ceased to be, but, before it vanishes he must stand its trials, and his deeds must be appraised.
We stand in spirit on the height of Heaven, and look down upon the earth, or where the earth once was, at our feet. In the light from the great white Throne all things are made clear. The mists of earth break and roll away. The world’s illusions, its hypocrisy, its false standards, are put to shame.
Only truth, only virtue, only moral courage, above all splendid moral courage, are decorated here, for these honors are everlasting.
“That they be loved in the things which they themselves like by a sharing in their youthful interests; in this way they will learn to see your love in matters which naturally speaking are not very pleasing to them, as is the case with study, discipline, and self-denial: in this way they will learn to do these things also with love.” -St. John Bosco
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