Getting our Priorities Right: Joy, Beauty and Truth


Getting our Priorities Right: Joy, Beauty and Truth

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI once said there are three key things to evangelise people: not to convert people, but to evangelise people (help them find peace):  joy, beauty and Truth.

The First Reading challenges us to look for what is important or, rather, what is most important in our religious rules and Traditions.  Sometimes the Truth gets buried under a lot of small traditions that are useful but not, in themselves, the Truth.

Perhaps we are too busy doing “administration” to have time to share with others?
Administration covers all the “duties” of washing up, going to work, making supper, taking kids to school, etc.  But joy only comes to us when we share our lives with those who need us and those we are committed to: our family members/friends, nearby neighbours and the poor.

The problem is, we become afraid that if we don’t do all the “administration”, then we will somehow fail to survive.  The text of today’s Gospel selected below should give us courage to balance in our priorities.  “Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”

Yes, administration is not just important, it’s vital.  But in-between all our “administration” work, must be time for sharing, so that God can surprise us with real love and joy.

If we are doing our best God will step in… and, often, we can combine our sharing time with our “administration” work by inviting people to work with us – share the burden – and teach them new skills.  Empowering others gives joy, dignity and pride, while it also gives us joy.

The Truth revealed by Jesus Christ is to live the Word. Not as a burden, but as a framework within which we have freedom to love and be loved.

Instead of saying: this is outrageous, why should the Church tell us to do this and not do that?  Let us ask: I wonder what this teaching, this rule, will protect me from?

The benefit of old age is the wisdom and experience we have gained from all our mistakes and moments of life.  The sad part is, we are too old to start over again and have a better life with less mistakes.  Now, the challenge of being young, is that we lack experience and knowledge about the consequences for many actions.  We can only rely on the Wisdom of our Elders, including the rules and Commandments of our Faith.

The question and challenge is: are we humble enough to trust the teachings of our Faith, not as repression, but as actions of love and protection?  That’s all the Commandments are:  limits and actions that ensure we live in respectful and fear-free harmony in our communities; which allows us to find joy, even when life is tough.

Let me conclude with a story:  One day a man from a nearby village called out at the monastery gates, and handed the old monk who opened it a beautiful bunch of grapes, saying, “Dear Father, I have brought as a gift the finest grapes my vineyard has produced.”

The monk smiled, “Thank you, I will take them to the Abbot immediately; he’ll be delighted with this offering.  The villager said, “No, no, no!  I brought them for you.”  The old monk didn’t think he deserved such a fine gift. “Oh yes!” insisted the man. “For whenever I come by, you open the gates and welcome me. When I needed help because the crop was destroyed, you shared your meal with me every day.  I hope this bunch of grapes will remind you of the sun’s love, the rain’s beauty and the miracle of God, for it is He who made them grow so fine.”

The monk held the bunch grapes.  It looked full and delicious.  He decided to present it to the Abbot, who had always encouraged him with words of wisdom.  The Abbot was very pleased with the grapes, but as he accepted them, he thought of one of the brothers who had been very unwell: “I’ll give him these grapes; they may bring some joy to his life.”

But the grapes didn’t stay in the sick monk’s room for long.  He thought of the newest entrant to the monastery.  He decided to gift them to the youngster as he felt he might be a bit lonely without his family, and that he might understand that the work of God is in the smallest details of creation.  When the novice received them, his heart was filled with happiness and praised God, for he had never seen such beautiful grapes.  He then recalled the first time he came to the monastery, and the simple old monk who had opened the gates and warmly welcomed him; it was that gesture which allowed him to feel at home in this community of people who knew how to value the wonders of life.

And so, he walked to the monk at the gates.  “Eat and enjoy them,” he said. “For you spend most of your time alone here, and these grapes will make you very happy.”

By Gerard Conlan, OMI