Continuing on the theme of the Good Shepherd this week, this phrase from Monday's Gospel strikes me .
"I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
Abundant life. Do we have one ?
Or are we often these days living our lives like a caged bird that watches other people's lives that we think are more abundant than our own and live vicariously through them ?
In an article entitled The Challenge of Experiencing Pleasure Without Guilt, Ron Rolheiser says this :
"Many of us suffer from a certain inchoate guilt. Simply put, we struggle to healthily enjoy pleasure without guilt, to not feel guilty about feeling good, to not be apologetic about our good luck.
Instead we tend, however unconsciously, to associate depth and religion with what's grey, sad, broken, and melancholy.
In the name of depth and religion we are stoic rather than joyous in our acceptance of pleasure.
Many of us, I suspect, suffer from an existential incapacity to drink in life's more earthy pleasures in genuine delight.
Instead we always " nurse some inchoate guilt feelings about pleasure".
Read the whole article here
In a different article, Living in the Face of Mortality Rolheiser also says this:
"Awareness of our vulnerability and mortality is not meant to make us fearful, morbid, timid about life, or guilty about enjoyment. Nor is it meant to make us other-worldly at the cost of denigrating this life.
Conversely, it is not meant to drive us to hedonism because life is short and unpredictable. It is an invitation to be faithful; to try always to stand were we are supposed to be standing, in warmth, love, duty, and enjoyment."
Abundant life is not a curriculum vitae of what we have achieved and controlled.
Abundant life is rather than where we have come to in ourselves. Abundant life is not about whether we have been publicly or privately educated or how many professional qualifications we have. It is not about having a beautiful body or travelling to so many countries, and now having 65 + friends on ‘Facebook’.
Those of us who do have a lot of material wealth may well have a nagging sense that we must give some of it back, whether out of a sense of gratitude for or guilt at having so much. The inner sense we have that we must somehow give of ourselves usually ends in some charitable donation out of our surplus rather than from a true sacrificial self.
Society constructs for us the measure of false abundance. We are here to make a comfortable life for ourselves and to give any left-overs to those less fortunate- period.
But what do we really have? Life's meaning is found not in what we have but in how we use what we have to bring healing to all we are part of.
My own thoughts on living life abundantly:
Most humans get a thrill when they are lucky to see dolphins preferably in their natural environment. Those who have been lucky enough to swim alongside dolphins express their utter delight and the therapeutic effect of being with these wonderful intelligent creatures is well known.
Dolphins love to play and for me these animals have abundant life in spades.
To live life abundantly we have to evolve as Christians and that means getting rid of the ego, the big I that says I can have it all and that I know best.