Events will keep happening to us in life. For most of these events, we have little control. These will sometimes take us to places we don’t want to go and into emotions we don’t want to feel. When they happen, our struggles make us wonder about the meaning of life. Tellingly it happens at the other end of the spectrum too. We think we find happiness through material success but instead find the pots of gold empty. Our heart is unsettled, troubled till we find peace.
In the film, The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is told to find herself a place where there is no trouble, and so she muses with her dog, Toto, “Some place where there isn’t any trouble. Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto? There must be. It is not a place you can get to by a boat, or a train. It’s far, far away. Behind the moon, beyond the rain… somewhere over the rainbow.”
We are created beings. We have a soul. In life we are making our way back to our Creator. But our worldly needs are pressing. We have material and emotional needs. Our soul has spiritual needs. The journey through life seem to bring all these into conflict. There is inner tension as we seek one over the other. In truth we need them all. But the imbalance unsettles our heart. Is there a trouble-free spot?
“Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it”. (Today’s Gospel)
Inner conflict arises from the priority-arrangement of our needs. Satisfying worldly needs bring about almost immediate self-gratification. This will always be a pull on us. Compared to a life carrying a cross, who would want that? We are created to be both body and soul, with our soul the dominant inner voice. The soul finds peace when dwelling in holiness, where life is fulfilling and meaningful. Unfortunate for the body, peace is not a purchase with material wealth. This is who we are and understanding this allows us to prioritise our needs.
Our life’s journey takes us through many personal events. We climb peaks of joy and wander in troughs of suffering. Events form the hills and the valleys mapping out our emotional terrain. Through these our soul search for the way home to our Creator. This seeking refines the way we journey through life. This finding for the way home is the meaning of this life. Being in a place of meaning brings us fulfilment and peace.
Fulfilment feeds the soul. It flattens the curve of our material and emotional needs. Our Creator shows us this path home. Take up the cross of our worldly challenges and follow Christ in his ways. Holiness as opposed to sin keep us on this path. Holiness is a life of service motivated by love of God and the other (“loses his life for my sake”). When we prioritise our self to preserve life, we lose life. Give life, win life, new life. This is the way for our soul.
Personal events that speak to us about our way home are often characterised by the storms they bring. In the eye of the storm there is a sweet spot of peace. Somewhere beyond the rain, over the rainbow, the symbol of his promise, God dwells in us and we can trust him.
St Augustine who had a colourful journey through worldly life is most qualified to say, “Our heart is restless until it rests in You”.
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time