Wisdom is not necessarily a matter of age. A grandmother told of a personal dilemma. Should she return to her passion of being an artist with all its dangers of self-preoccupation or should she continue being busy with family relationships, running here and there?
Perhaps we have a false dilemma here. It doesn’t have to be absolute devotion to one’s passion or absolute commitment to family relationships. Balance is possible though often difficult and agonizing.
The issue here is one of happiness. What is it that will bring us graced contentment and satisfaction? Jesus has a perspective regarding this matter and instructs us accordingly. It is poverty of spirit, a sympathetic heart, a humble meekness, a passion for justice, a deep seated mercy, purity of heart, a longing for peace that will put us on the road to happiness. Throw in persecution for what is true and good and you have a formula for happiness. When an individual or community embraces this vision then we have a great cause to rejoice and be glad.
St. Paul would have some comments to make to the grandmother. He would remind her that God had a strange set of criteria for building the kingdom. The divine preference is for the foolish, the weak, the lowly and the despised. None of these individuals has anything to boast of. When good is done or the truth is told, all credit must go to the Lord in whom they boast.
Zephaniah steps forward with his advice to the grandmother as well. Whether one is an artist or not, a grandmother or aunt, everyone is to seek the Lord, to seek humility and justice. We have here a way of life truly pleasing to the Lord. We have here a formula for the happy life. The virtue of humility gives us a doorway into the truth of being. We are created, limited, loved, forgiven and totally indebted to God for everything we have and are. The virtue of justice puts us in the right relationship with our sisters and brothers. Rights are promoted and duties are fulfilled. Here are the elements of a happy, holy life.
But even with these perspectives and sound advice, we still have to make personal decisions in our search for happiness and peace. The grandmother/artist felt the tension between her passion for her grandparents and her extravagant love for her family. In the end, happiness lies in observing God’s law: acting justly, loving tenderly, walking humbly with our God (Mi 6:8).
Questions for reflection
1. What is God’s criteria for making good decisions?
2. What is your vision of the “happy” life?
Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.