There is one thing I have come to appreciate more and more as I scroll through Facebook and take an occasional glance at media and popular advertisement: True happiness does not sell. As simple as this may seem, let us take it a step further: The means that guide people towards true happiness likewise do not sell. The reality is that many of the things that we dedicate our leisure and free-time to are ultimately illusions which draw us farther and farther away from our true vocation in Christ which is to be saints.
Consumer culture preys on the disorders of the heart, and in place of authentic happiness, promotes a vision of reality which is ultimately disordered. If it is news media, it taps into primal fears and deep insecurities in order to promote a false sense of self-righteousness, all the while promoting a particular political ideology as a new messiah. If it is entertainment, it tends to create an intense cocktail of aggression, sensual pleasure, and sexual appetite, all intended to reduce reason to primitive instincts.
All of this, ultimately, draws us farther and farther from true happiness, which is nothing short of our reception of unconditional love, that gift of grace that comes through intimacy with Jesus Christ. When all is said and done, the path to a true and lasting happiness is only found in the path of renunciation which forms the foundation of a radical availability to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. This in turn opens us to give and receive love from our neighbors.
To receive the unconditional love of God, we must become contemplatives in the midst of the world. We must be dedicated to intimacy with Jesus Christ.
Along these lines, I would argue that we live at a moment in the course of history in which humans are experiencing unparalleled amounts of free-time and recreation. Common activities that used to encompass hours of strenuous labor can be done with relative ease, and in the midst of such technological advances, we have to ask ourselves, “What are we doing with our free-time?”
I have come to believe that the vast majority of Americans have within their resources the time needed to dedicate themselves to living a more contemplative life. With the notable exception of families that have several young children who require constant attention, the reality is that the vast majority can give a significant amount of time daily to connecting with Jesus Christ.
To be contemplatives in our homes, we are going to have to rearrange our priorities. We are going to have to cut out a lot of time that we dedicated to television, movies, and the internet. However, I am going to propose something that may seem radical. If we learn to go without those things, I am willing to bet that we are going to experience greater happiness and greater peace in our lives. In addition, I believe that as we enter into the mystery of prayer day by day, we are gong to open avenues of grace which will work to create a more just society and a just world.
Give it a try. Dare to be a saint!