Magazine article Compass: A Jesuit Journal

Dissatisfaction Filled with Peace

Magazine article Compass: A Jesuit Journal

Dissatisfaction Filled with Peace

Article excerpt

For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him.

--Philippians 3:8b-9a

Almost everyone noticed it as it passed--a clean, freshly painted, highly polished garbage truck. People would stop and look at it as it went about its daily pickup business. On the rear of the truck was hung a captivating sign. It read, "Satisfaction guaranteed or double your garbage back."

Had one of this truck's stops been the house of St. Paul, it would have had a chore. For Paul had come to the point of accounting everything rubbish in the light of the knowledge of Christ. All else was loss to be collected and tossed into the trash bin of history. Then he abruptly changes the image to that of a foot race. He describes himself as running to win the prize. Why is he in the race? Why is he racing for the prize? Because he has first been grasped by Christ.

We perceive in both these images a theme common in the great spiritual writers. A man for whom the entire world has been rendered secondary, Paul is at once dissatisfied and at peace with himself. We see this in the juxtaposition of his subsequent sentences: "Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal" (Phil 3:12). He knows that he has not achieved the goal to which he is called. And yet, "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil 3:14). There is peace in knowing that he is on the right track even while there is dissatisfaction with where he is on this track.

St. Gregory of Nyssa is one of many who speaks of this peace-filled dissatisfaction. In his comments on the beatitude, "Blessed are they who mourn, they shall be comforted," Gregory offers a compelling image. Two men live in darkness. One of the two has had a glimpse of the light, the other has not. Do they both live in the darkness in the same way? One will be totally at home in the darkness--he has not known anything else. The other is somewhat at home, may even live at ease in the darkness, but he has seen something other than the darkness, and this vision robs every moment, every time, every place of the possibility of being totally satisfying. The one who lives in the darkness and has had a glimpse of the light is one who, in a sense, mourns--but this mourning is a promise that one day he will be comforted. …

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