Our lives will be chaotic and stressful…until we learn Self Control and plan ahead
Many people today are tired of religious leaders. So, when they hear “God” they often turn off, because they link “God” to the poor actions/ communication of Church leaders. But, truly, God is the energy that created us & sustains us: and there is something built-in that longs for “God”.
The Israelites connected God with “Wisdom”. Now, Wisdom is not knowledge. Do you know the difference between a wise man and a smart man?
A smart man knows what to say. A wise man knows when to say it.
Perhaps that helps us see our need to allow God to be part of our lives. The foolish ladies in the Gospel knew that the lamps required oil to operate, and they knew the lamp would only last for a short time before a refill was required. They had knowledge, but lacked Wisdom.
Wisdom, we can say, is the energy of God that helps us make decisions every day. But God’s energy is not the only energy within us. There is a selfish energy – call it the devil. So, which energy should we listen to? And how do we know which one is “speaking”?
Think of your friends: we all have one or more, I’m sure. But not all of them are equal! Which friend do you trust the most? Why? How did that trust build up? The friend you trust, the most, is usually the one you communicate with frequently and/or over a long time. True?
So, how will you recognise the Wisdom from God if you don’t cultivate a true friendship with God? Religion helps us create frameworks in which to focus on God’s friendship with us, but it’s not perfect, because none of us are perfect. That’s why we need to develop a personal relationship at home, to continue the framework of our understanding of God from Church.
For when you have a great friend, the Responsorial Psalm makes sense:
“For you my soul is thirsting, O God, my God.” We are seeking Wisdom for our decisions. If we don’t really thirst for God, then the selfish energy will be guiding our actions.
By chance (the Holy Spirit?/ Wisdom of God?), I saw again a summary documentary of the Dunedin Project (still running since 1972) in New Zealand, filmed by National Geographic. The study of 1,037 persons from birth till now (48 years old): physical, social & psychological.
I believe it should be mandatory viewing for all people planning to raise a family. The project highlights, scientifically, many issues in life that happened automatically through our former religious and societal norms which are now breaking down, as well as children sometimes getting “lost” through the increasing number of family breakdowns.
Of interest to our readings this week, is the issue of SELF-CONTROL. This character strength is now recognised, among most sociologists, as the key personality trait/ characteristic which predicts if a person will have a successful life. The Dunedin Project helped establish this fact by studying the relationship between childhood behaviour and later adult reality.
The Gospel message challenges us to be prepared = forward planning. Failing to plan is the same as planning to fail. And why is it that we fail to plan? The root cause, I believe, is a lack of self-control.
To take the time to plan and prepare for “tomorrow” requires us to delay some more pleasurable activity: eg. “ah, don’t worry about it. It’ll be OK. Someone else will organise it. Let’s go to the pub and enjoy ourselves.”
Sadly, people who lack self-control, have been shown to have less fulfilling jobs, often out of work, higher rates of sexual disease & other sickness, are less happy, and more often in prison.
The Gospel narrates the wise and foolish ladies: the foolish have no oil (=energy). They had no energy, because they lacked self-control in their previous activities and opportunities.
Today, one of our Oblates crashed with a motorbike taxi – who was over-speeding and sneaking around the cars stopped to allow crossing traffic. Thank God, he was shaken but not badly off. He showed a lack of planning ahead, and a lack of self-control (=to slow down).
But it’s not only young people who struggle with self-control and planning ahead: even older people need to reflect (and religious leaders). If we yell at the youth and rarely encourage them, what sort of relationship will they have with us later in life? Could self-control provide older people with the patience to nurture and empower, rather than to condemn and discourage?
Let us, today, listen to the Wisdom of God to PLAN AHEAD and empower our youth so that they may be happy and successful in the years ahead: years when we will rely on them! As we grow old, and darkness increases, they will be the oil in our lamps, helping us see God.
As we Bless the younger generations, now, we’ll feel more like God: content, at peace, happy.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI