Sunday 18 C
Jose has lived in the States for more than 30 years. He grew up in a poor country. The day he left his homeland, he hoped to be happier because he would have a great career.
After working hard for 20 years, he could buy a big house with 4 bed rooms with high quality furniture and a luxurious Mercedes. In the society, many people wanted to be like him but they couldn’t. He was financially and socially stable. However, Jose did not feel satisfied with that he had. So he asked himself these questions: Is it because I don’t have much that I don’t feel comfortable? Would I be happier when I have a house by the sea so I can go there and relax on the weekend? Would I be more satisfied if I move up to a higher position in the company?
As a consequence, he continued to seek more possessions and expand his fame. After about ten years, he got what he dreamed of. But he still did not feel truly happy. Obviously he had much more than many other people. The question “why” continued hanging on his mind.
One Sunday, his family went to Mass. It had been a long time since the last time they did it together. Going to church for him was only an obligation or a boring habit that he inherited from his parents. But for some reason, that Sunday, he was struck very much by the readings of the Word of God. The first reading from the book of Ecclesiastes began like this: “Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” (Ecc 1:1)
Really? Vanity? Noooooooo. He said to himself as if he wanted to disagree with what he heard.
Then psalm 90 was chanted clearly:
You turn man back to dust,
saying, “Return, O children of men.”
For a thousand years in your sight
are as yesterday, now that it is past,
or as a watch of the night.
“Yeah. This part sounds reasonable to me since human beings come and go as a quick wind in this life.” Jose began to reflect more deeply.
In the second reading from the letter of Saint Paul, Jose was struck by this verse: “greed is idolatry” (Cl 3:5).
Finally, the Gospel of Luke was proclaimed by the permanent deacon. Jesus teaches: “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” (Lk 12:15)
The word “greed” made him think. He asked himself if he was greedy. No, he didn’t think he was a person of greed because he never took anything that was not his. What he had was the fruit of his labor.
The Mass ended. On the way to the parking lot, Jose saw the janitor who worked partime in his company. He suddenly realized some differences between him and the janitor. The first difference: his car was more expensive than that of the other. The second difference: his house was newer and bigger. The third difference: he was more handsome. The fourth difference: he had a higher degree. But the fifth difference attracted his attention the most, that is, Jose’s smile was not as bright as that of the janitor. In other words, Jose did not feel at peace as the latter.
That evening Jose decided to give the janitor a call with the reason to show his concern for his worker but the real reason was to find some answer for the questions in his heart. In their conversation, Jose realized more limitations of the janitor in terms of finance and social status. Finally, Jose told him:
“If you need anything, feel free to let me know.”
The janitor responded sincerely: “Thank you my boss. What I have is enough for me to be happy.”
Jose startled when he heard the phrase “enough to be happy”. Yes, this is the key of wisdom to his ongoing problem. The janitor might not have enough money to buy a bigger house, nor enough education to make people admire him, nor enough power to give order to others,… but he knew how to accept what he had as enough for his peace and happiness.
Many thoughts flashed in Jose’s mind and made him reflect. Obviously he had “enough to be happy”. He had a precious family that he had almost neglected. Faith gave him life meaning and peace, but he had not paid much attention to it. His possessions were gifts from God, and yet he had taken them for granted. The clear blue sky had been there like forever, but he did not see it until then,… The reason why he did not feel happy is actually very simple: Because he did not see what he had as enough for his happiness. Consequently, he did not know how to enjoy it fully. At this moment, he realized that not knowing he had had enough to be happy was a hidden form of greed, that is to say he had been a foolish person of greed without awareness of it.
The conversation that day was closed with many “thanks” from Jose. The janitor did not understand why his boss kept thanking him. As for Jose, he was joyful as if he had found a treasure long buried in the field. He was thinking of showing his gratitude to his worker in the near future.
Today, thanks to this key of wisdom that Jose becomes much happier. He has more time and space to enjoy the most important things in life. Even better, Jose came to realize a truth that St. Teresa of Avila discovered five hundred years ago: to have God is to have enough. God is enough.
Joseph Viet, O.Carm.