Fr. Francis Scaria
When God does not occupy the central place in our lives we shall not be content with anything. We shall sow in abundance but the harvest will be meagre. We shall eat plenty; yet we shall not be satisfied. We shall drink, but it shall not quench our thirst. We shall try to keep ourselves warm with lot of cloths, but shall not be warm. Our income shall never be enough. We shall struggle to make both ends meet. This is what the Lord tells through prophet Haggai (cf. Haggai 1:5) about the people of the prophet’s times. Yet this is true of many of us today.
Zacchaeus had plenty of money, but did not experience peace in his heart. There was a great vacuum in his life. The encounter with Jesus made him realise that such restlessness was not inevitable and that Jesus could bring sunshine into his life. He accepted Jesus who enabled him to accept others. His perspectives changed. He became a new creature at the touch of the Word made Flesh. It is the same Word through whom everything was originally created (cf. Jn 1:3).
The Samaritan woman kept going to the well with her jar for water. That empty jar was the symbol of her own unfilled life. She was not contented with her relationships. She has had five husbands; yet none of them could satisfy her. Jesus says to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly.” (Jn 4:17-18) She was willing to allow the Lord to correct the course of her life. Her life changed as she began to place Jesus at the centre of her life.
Thus one of the signs of those who have God at the centre of their lives is their contentment. Psalmist says, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want” (Ps 23:1). Abraham had God at the centre of his life. When he returned victorious after defeating king Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.” (Gen 14:21) But instantaneously Abram responded saying, “I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, maker of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal-thong or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’” (Gen 14:22-23) When God is at the centre he is content with what God gives; he does not expect anything from anyone else. It is God who makes him rich.
This is also the lesson that the Lord taught St. Paul. When he complained about his restlessness within himself, the Lord said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2Cor 12:9).
Today the divorces are increasing even among Christians. The spouses are not able to understand each and adjust to each another. They are not satisfied with the partners the Lord has chosen for them. What is the cause of this dissatisfaction? Can we ever find perfect people? Can we hope to find all the qualities we want in any one person? Definitely not! In March 2019 the newspapers in Kerala reported an alarming series of instances of wife-swapping among four couples. Further inquiry revealed that there have been growing instances of wife-swapping in the State. Kerala being a highly literate State everything gets reported. In other states the situation may not be different.
Through Prophet Haggai, the Lord throws light on the reason for this dissatisfaction which leads to immoral life. “Because of my house that lies in ruins, while you busy yourselves each with his own house” (Hag 1:9). The Lord’s temple lies in ruins. In no unclear terms, St. Paul asks, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If any one destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are.” (1Cor 3:16-17) We are sanctified by the presence of the Lord within us. If we are devoid of that sanctifying divine presence, then there will be restlessness and dissatisfaction.
External things, material realities cannot bring us happiness. Happiness is an inner product. That is the result of contentment. The source of contentment is the Lord. With the Psalmist let us say, “With the Lord on my side I do not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is on my side to help me; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.” (Ps 118:6-9)
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