The Meaning of Success

BackĀ  in 1973, when I was a college freshman, a required reading was the book, The Meaning of Success, written by Michael Quoist. I honestly don’t remember its contents nearly 40 years later, but the title has never escaped my memory nor the question, “What is success in the Christian context?”

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta was noted to have said so rightly, “It is fidelity not success that God desires.” Someone recently reminded me that one may lose every battle but win the war — referring to the spiritual battles of life. He went on to say that there was meaningĀ  for Jesus’ three falls on the way to Golgotha, for one might think of his falls as symbols of human weakness which succumbs under the weight of sin, which our Lord was bearing on his shoulders as he walked to Calvary. Falling is not the ultimate problem; whether we get back up is.

So the question remains, “What is success in the context of Christian life? How does one measure it? How does on account for it?”

If you read the Gospels, the answer seems fairly clear for they tell us that when we face our particular judgment after death, Jesus will be asking us only one question, “Did you love and care for me in the poor?”

It all comes back to care for the poor in our love for Jesus.

Success is loving the needy in our midst.

There are two parables in the Gospels that speak of this. In the first, you recall, a rich young man comes to Jesus and asks, “What must I do to inherit everlasting life?” Jesus tells him, “Honor your father and mother. Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not covet. Do not commit adultery” The man said, “I have kept all these. What else must I do?” Jesus said, “Sell all you have and come, follow me.” Here was a man who obeyed the 4th through the 10th commandments, all of which have to do with loving one’s neighbor, i.e., the poor. But he couldn’t obey the first 3 commandments which were love of God above all else.

In the second parable, the Good Samaritan, we hear of priests and Levites passing by an injured man, avoiding him because of ritual impurity. They were focused on their love of God and the first three commandments, but neglect the last seven.

St. Vincent de Paul reminded us that there is no sin to interrupt our ritual prayers if a poor person asks for our help, for it is Jesus who is asking.

Let us not get caught up in the cultural definition of success as positive outcomes, production and the bottom line. Doing less is often success.

Is not success in the Christian context approaching closer and closer to the beatific vision, to the constant recognition of Jesus in each person we meet and reaching out to them?

It is a matter of vision.

This is what heaven will be.

About Deacon Bob

Moderator: Deacon Bob Yerhot of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.
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