IV. Joy and peace [222 – 227]

I have begun to publish sections and segments of the Popes letter on OUR network of blogs as well as on Linkedin & Quora & Newsvine and will add my comments over time. Pappa francescos 180 page letter is much less about religion than it is about nature and the planet earth. He proposes some fairly radical yet simple and understandable solutions for humankind. It is way past time to start paying attention to what we are all doing or allowing others to do.

222. Christian spirituality proposes an alternative
understanding of the quality of life, and encourages
a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle,
one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession
with consumption. We need to take up an
ancient lesson, found in different religious traditions
and also in the Bible. It is the conviction that
“less is more”. A constant flood of new consumer
goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from
cherishing each thing and each moment. To be serenely
present to each reality, however small it may
be, opens us to much greater horizons of understanding
and personal fulfilment. Christian spirituality
proposes a growth marked by moderation
and the capacity to be happy with little. It is a return
to that simplicity which allows us to stop and
appreciate the small things, to be grateful for the
opportunities which life affords us, to be spiritually
detached from what we possess, and not to
succumb to sadness for what we lack. This implies
avoiding the dynamic of dominion and the mere
accumulation of pleasures.

223. Such sobriety, when lived freely and consciously,
is liberating. It is not a lesser life or one
lived with less intensity. On the contrary, it is
a way of living life to the full. In reality, those
who enjoy more and live better each moment are
those who have given up dipping here and there,
always on the look-out for what they do not
have. They experience what it means to appreciate
each person and each thing, learning familiarity
with the simplest things and how to enjoy
them. So they are able to shed unsatisfied needs,
reducing their obsessiveness and weariness. Even
living on little, they can live a lot, above all when
they cultivate other pleasures and find satisfaction
in fraternal encounters, in service, in developing
their gifts, in music and art, in contact with
nature, in prayer. Happiness means knowing how
to limit some needs which only diminish us, and
being open to the many different possibilities
which life can offer.

224. Sobriety and humility were not favourably
regarded in the last century. And yet, when
there is a general breakdown in the exercise of a
certain virtue in personal and social life, it ends
up causing a number of imbalances, including
environmental ones. That is why it is no longer
enough to speak only of the integrity of ecosystems.
We have to dare to speak of the integrity
of human life, of the need to promote and unify
all the great values. Once we lose our humility,
and become enthralled with the possibility of
limitless mastery over everything, we inevitably
end up harming society and the environment. It
is not easy to promote this kind of healthy humility
or happy sobriety when we consider
ourselves autonomous, when we exclude God from
our lives or replace him with our own ego, and
think that our subjective feelings can define what
is right and what is wrong.

225. On the other hand, no one can cultivate
a sober and satisfying life without being at peace
with him or herself. An adequate understanding
of spirituality consists in filling out what we
mean by peace, which is much more than the
absence of war. Inner peace is closely related
to care for ecology and for the common good
because, lived out authentically, it is reflected in
a balanced lifestyle together with a capacity for
wonder which takes us to a deeper understanding
of life. Nature is filled with words of love, but
how can we listen to them amid constant noise,
interminable and nerve-wracking distractions,
or the cult of appearances? Many people today
sense a profound imbalance which drives them
to frenetic activity and makes them feel busy, in
a constant hurry which in turn leads them to ride
rough-shod over everything around them. This
too affects how they treat the environment. An
integral ecology includes taking time to recover
a serene harmony with creation, reflecting on
our lifestyle and our ideals, and contemplating
the Creator who lives among us and surrounds
us, whose presence “must not be contrived but
found, uncovered”.155

155 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (24 November
2013), 71: AAS 105 (2013), 1050.
226. We are speaking of an attitude of the
heart, one which approaches life with serene
attentiveness, which is capable of being fully
present to someone without thinking of what
comes next, which accepts each moment as a gift
from God to be lived to the full. Jesus taught us
this attitude when he invited us to contemplate
the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, or
when seeing the rich young man and knowing
his restlessness, “he looked at him with love”
(Mk 10:21). He was completely present to everyone
and to everything, and in this way he showed
us the way to overcome that unhealthy anxiety
which makes us superficial, aggressive and compulsive

227. One expression of this attitude is when
we stop and give thanks to God before and after
meals. I ask all believers to return to this beautiful
and meaningful custom. That moment of blessing,
however brief, reminds us of our dependence
on God for life; it strengthens our feeling
of gratitude for the gifts of creation; it acknowledges
those who by their labours provide us with
these goods; and it reaffirms our solidarity with
those in greatest need.


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