Monday in the Eighth Week of Ordinary Time at Mississippi Abbey
Scripture Readings: 1 Pt 1:3-9; Mk 10:17-27
“What should I do….?”
This is a question we all came here to answer. Our personal history asks the question. It asks, “What will make me happy?” One contemporary philosopher tells us that Happiness is the fulfillment of desire. Happiness is the only thing we want for its own sake. So it is an important question!
There is an industry that is making millions answering this question. The short answer is, SATISFACTION of physical and psychological desires! It requires constant repetition, but there is always someone willing to sell what is needed to attain satisfaction…and usually quickly! And there is a place in our hearts that is content with satisfaction.
The spirit also answers this question. And Jesus offers that answer to the young man today. “Turn your life and your will over t the care of God.” Do this by giving first priority to His commandments. In short, He tells us to live from the deepest part of our heart and to love God and neighbor.
“Happiness is the fulfillment of desire.” His answer to the young man underscores the importance of desire. He underscores the importance of the heart. He knows that it is what we desire that matters! And what matters is unsurpassable. He moves the young man—and us—from the simple satisfaction of pleasure, possessions, and ego-gratification to that which is important in itself, love of God and neighbor. That is unsurpassable.
We desire what we lack. We long for something to complete us. Realizing and giving ascendancy to this deepest desire is why we came to the monastery.
This deepest desire is God’s will for us. Because it is our desire it is not a will imposed on us, but one we—God’s Image—feel naturally drawn to. It is a gift. It is a vocation (marital or monastic) a calling to which we freely respond. Steadfast and intense desire is the basis of a marital or monastic vocation. It is rooted in a longing to love what we can never lack when we love it.
St. Benedict said a monastic’s life ought to be a continuous Lent in the sense that it should be a continuous sorting &ordering of our desires. We do this because we each came here with a concrete history of infidelity to our end in life. We lived at a shallow level of material and social satisfaction… following everyone else! Yet, at the same time we felt drawn to the unsurpassable by our deepest hearts. We knew we needed a community and way of life in order to subordinate all other desires, no matter how base or noble, to the unsurpassable one for God. Notice that other desires are not eliminated.
Jesus tells us in effect, that it is hard for one with multiple desires to enter the kingdom of heaven.
It is not so much the number of desires as the importance we give to each as ends in themselves. That is where the intensity comes from. That is what affected the young man in our gospel.
Desires that are a gift from God follow our own natural bent. What distinguishes them is that God-desires are ordered to love of God and neighbor. That is why the monastery is a school of charity. In this gospel, Jesus directs the man’s desires away from the controllable material and social realm, from importance based on the effect on self, to the uncontrollable, intrinsically important & everlasting. That is love of God and service to others.
For the young man it came down to a choice he had to make. Desires lead to choices: we choose which desires to follow and how to respond to those desires. Charity is our guide.
Self-centeredness is our chief obstacle. We each have something controllable and immediately gratifying, a pleasure or an ego-gratification, that stands in the way of our unreserved following. It causes us to “go away sad.”Being free of it seems impossible. “… [B]ut not for God. For God all things are possible.” Holiness is not achieved; it is allowed.