In the long run, the really good life, that is, a life based on truth and integrity, on love and compassion and sharing, will always be better than one based on phoniness, on selfishness, greed, hedonism and immediate gratification of every pleasure.Living Space, the Irish Jesuit Prayer Web Site
Today's gospel from Matthew begins the Eschatological Discourse of Jesus. Today's reading is about the servant placed in charge of the household. The good servant does his job of taking care of the other servants and the household in the absence of the owner. The not so good servant when left in charge abuses the other servants and misuses the resources of the household for parties for friends with predictable excesses and abuses. When the household owner returns unexpectedly, he will punish that servant and cast him outside with the rest of the teeth-gnashing hypocrites. No one knows when the owner will return and thus we must always act with rectitude and responsibility.
What the quotation from the wonderful Irish Jesuit prayer site underscores is that true human well being and fullness of life comes not from the excesses of consumption and gratification exemplied by the irreponsible servant but from the behavior of the good servant whose life is based "on truth and integrity, on love and compassion and sharing."
21st Century Americans live in an economic system that is based on consumption and its need for constant and constantly increased consumption. Such a system prizes addictive self gratification as a primary motivator of behavior. It must be addictive in order to drive the economic system and it is precisely addictive because it is funadmentally ineffective. Self gratification can at best provide a momentarily feeling of well being that collapses as quickly as it arises. We then require more self gratification in order to feel better again. The Irish Jesuits clearly identify the elements of such behavior: "phoniness...selfishness, greed, hedonism and immediate gratification of every pleasure."
If Freud is right--and I believe he is--it is not possible to eleminate suffering from human existence. Our only options are to either anesthetize ourselves to suffering or to deepen our capacity to feel that suffering as well as the joys of human life. We do this best by reaching outside ourselves to compassion for, awareness of, and service to others. A path of love, compassion, and sharing leads to a fullness of life and grace that makes the addictive move to self gratification pale and fade away.
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