Monday July 22, 2019
7:16 pm
Bishop Hying

When we discover less is more, we find we do not need what the world is always chasing after

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on January 27, 2019

 

      I’ve been trying to lose 10 pounds for the last 22 years. I get angry at myself when I can no longer fit into a pair of pants or stop visiting the gym. Literally, there needs to be less of me! I feel so much better physically and mentally with more energy and confidence when I shed even a few pounds. In so many ways, I have discovered that less is more. 

      The fewer pounds I weigh, the fewer possessions I own, the less clutter there is in my house and office, the fewer tasks and correspondence I have not attended to, the better I feel and the better life is.  When I embrace silence, prayer and reflection, the stress of living in the daily craziness around us begins to ebb away and I discover true peace.

      We all fight the human tendency to want more - more clothes, shoes, books, money, friends, popularity, power, influence, food and drink, vacation time away from work. We live in a culture where the economy is always supposed to keep growing, the stock market should always be escalating, cars should go faster, the waiting time for anything should be shorter, that promotion at work should come faster, houses should be bigger and our share of the pie should be more generous. 

      We can never have enough of what we do not really need. Entitlement can never be satisfied.  Gratitude already is.

      We live in a society of preening self-assertion, whether it is social media, the evening news, politics in Washington or traffic on the freeway. Not often enough do we hear the words: “You were right.”  “I am sorry.”  “Thank you.”  “I made a mistake.”  “My opponents have a point.”  

      Egos writ large dominate the world with constant chatter and self-importance that, when all is said and done, amounts to not very much of anything. That is one reason I never watch television. We live in an age of anger, sound and fury with little self-reflection or self-awareness. Why are so many people hooked on prescription drugs?  Why do so many of our children die of heroin overdoses? When God is no longer the true center of life, we have to fill the existential hole with something.

      The Gospel calls us to simplify by focusing on the essential, to find the joy of giving to replace the stress of possessing, to live a hidden life in Christ without needing to always be thinking, judging, asserting, defending, fighting, disproving, criticizing, playing the victim. When we are radically grounded in the love of God as the basis of our self-esteem, we are liberated to truly love people unconditionally without expecting anything back. 

      This level of loving requires that we will the good of the other for the sake of the other, especially when we get nothing out of it at all, excepting the joy of imitating the Lord.

      John the Baptist was so charismatic in his preaching that many people who flocked to the Jordan presumed he was the Messiah. He emphatically corrected them, pointing out that he was simply the prophet, the voice, the best man. Jesus was the Christ, the Word, the Bridegroom. How easily John could have let his ego needs be massaged by the adulation of the crowds and gone along with their misperceptions, but the authenticity of his vocation did not allow him to be anyone other than who he was. 

      There lies true freedom - being ourselves, the self that God knows in the secret chamber of our heart, the self we open to the Lord in prayer when no one else is looking or paying attention to us.

      One reason the priest wears vestments when he celebrates Mass is to cover over his individual identity and to clothe himself in Christ, to remind the congregation and himself that Christ is offering this sacrifice. Christ is speaking and acting in this liturgy; Christ is the focus, not the priest. In a sense, the priest disappears so that the Lord can powerfully work through the efficacy of his own priesthood, present in this particular minister of the altar. 

      What a lesson for all of us! When we wrap ourselves in the Word of God, the grace of the sacraments, the silence of prayer, paradoxically, we disappear and emerge at the same time. My false self dies; my spiritual self resurrects.

      When we discover that less is more, we know the abundance of emptiness, the presence of the Lord in seeming absence, the greatness of our littleness and the beauty of anonymity in the world, even as we are profoundly known and loved by the Father. We find that we do not need what the world is always chasing after because we have found our true existential center in Christ. 

      What joy! What freedom! What peace! Can we sit still long enough to let the Lord pour these blessings into our laps and lives? Can we forget ourselves on purpose and disappear into the vast beautiful world of Christ’s resurrection, the only place where you can be fully you and I can be fully me?

      One of my favorite poems is “I’m Nobody!  Who are You?” by Emily Dickinson.

      “I’m nobody! Who are you? Are you nobody too?

      Then there’s a pair of us - don’t tell! They’d banish us, you know.

      How dreary to be somebody!  How public like a frog

      To tell your name the livelong day to an admiring bog!”

 

       + Donald J. Hying

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