Embracing Contentment

Photo:  Sister Nancy A. Sell, OSF

Photo: Sister Nancy A. Sell, OSF

“Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, oh, God.”  Saint Augustine of Hippo knew this many years ago.   Hearts throughout the ages have experienced this feeling.  Our hearts are restless unless they again find their home in the Divine Embrace.  Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great writer said, “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”  What is the beautiful we seek?

All the leaders of the great world religions encouraged returning again and again to the divine source to live compassionately and contented.   In Buddhism compassion is essential,  finding compassion both within oneself and cultivating compassion for others leads to contentment.  This takes place through the interrelated  “four divine states of dwelling”:  metta (loving kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy) and upekkha (equanimity).    Mudita, sympathetic joy, is joy in the good fortune of others.  Mudita is a great alternative to envy and jealously.  It is  feeling happiness at other people’s good fortune, rather than wishing it was me and not them.  In the Christian scriptures (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32) we find a story filled with the quest for compassion and contentment.  Perhaps we can identify with this story in some way.

The story of the Prodigal Son/Daughter, the Loving Parent, the sibling who felt left out is full of emotion.  A parent, two siblings and a real saga.  The younger son asked for his share of the estate.   He left home and wasted the money.  He had nothing left.  He was hungry.  He realized what he had done.  He came to his senses.   He went to his father, told him he was sorry and that he would work as a hired hand.  He told his father that he no longer deserved to be called his son.

The father, however, was jubilant at his return.  He created a feast, a celebration, a party.   My son is home he said!  The older son, the one who had remained faithful and loyal to his father, was angry when he heard about the party.   He would not come home and join in the celebration.   You have been with me always, his father said, all I have is yours.  But now we must celebrate, we thought your brother was dead.   He has been found.”

Many have speculated on this passage from the vantage point of the three characters.   I would like to focus on the son who stayed home, who was faithful to his father and angry that he did not have a party.  “What about me?”  he asked.  Why isn’t there a celebration for me?   We can understand his feelings, yet the invitation is deeper.

The older son’s call is to contentment,  to a deep inner peace.   Regardless of what is going on around him, his deep sense of the abiding presence of the divine within fills him.  The older son does not realize he actually has all he needs to be happy.  In the midst of all his pain his inner being seeks contentment and Mudita,  sympathetic joy, joy in the good fortune of others rather than jealously and envy.

Have you experienced situations in your life similar to the older son when you said, “What about me?”   In gentleness and peace we realize our oneness with others in the divine source of life.  There lies our contentment, there lies sympathetic joy, our joy in celebrating the gifts, the goodness of others.   Knowing that what we have and who we are is enough we rest contented in the Divine embrace.

Our invitation is to embrace contentment.

Blessings and peace,

About SisterNancy

I am a Catholic Sister, a member of the School Sisters of St. Francis from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I enjoy swimming and nature: hiking in the mountains and along rolling hills, sitting by water and walking through the various seasons of life. I am a spiritual director, spirituality consultant, chaplain and retreat director. You can contact me at sisternancyosf@gmail.com
This entry was posted in 4th Sunday of Advent, compassion, contentment, prodigal son, Spirituality and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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