On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines. On this mountain He will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; He will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face; the reproach of His people He will remove from the whole earth; for the Lord has spoken. On that day it will be said: "Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the Lord for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that He has saved us!" For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain.(P) The word of the Lord.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures He gives me repose; beside restful waters He leads me; He refreshes my soul. (R)
He guides me in right paths for His name's sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage. (R)
You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (R)
Surely, goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come. (R)
Brothers and sisters: I know how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I can do all things in Him who strengthens me. Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.
My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen.(P) The word of the Lord.
Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants saying, "Tell those invited: "Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.""
"Some ignored the invitations and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, "The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invited to the feast whomever you find.""
"The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests, he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. The king said to him, "My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?" But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, "Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth." Many are invited, but few are chosen.""(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
Three men were marooned on a desert island. As the days slowly went by, they dreamed of what it would be like to be at home with their friends and family. One day they found a bottle. When they opened it, a genie popped out and said to them that she would grant each of them one wish. "Oh! Really?" one of the men said, "Please make me go back to my wife and kids." The genie agreed and instantly he was gone. Seeing that, the second man gave his request, "I want to be back with my fiancé." The genie agreed and in an instant he was gone too. The third man was left all alone sitting on the sandy beach. The genie asked him, "What is your wish"? He said, "It's so lonely here without my friends. Please bring them back here."
It is said that human beings are never satisfied. We always want something more and something different. There are very few people who are truly content with their present life. The apostle Paul is one of the greatest examples for those who seek contentment. In his letter to the Philippians he reminds all Christians that contentment is the key to true peace. Let us first briefly look at the surrounding circumstances of the letter.
When Paul was a prisoner in Rome, he wrote four letters which are now part of the New Testament of the Bible. They are to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. While the first three letters were addressed to the churches he had founded, the last one was deeply a personal letter to his friend, Philemon. Today's second reading is an excerpt from his letter to the church at Philippi. Philippi was an important ancient city in Macedonia and, it enjoyed a high degree of autonomy and tax exemption within the Roman Empire. However, the people began to worry about losing their privileged status after their conversion to Christianity. At the same time they were also quite concerned about Paul's personal well-being while in prison. Hence they collected money and other material goods, probably clothing and food, and, sent a leading member of their church, Epaphroditus, to visit Paul and deliver their gifts. While in Rome, Epaphroditus fell seriously ill and the people were worried about him as well. After he recovered from his illness, Paul sent him back to Philippi with a letter.
In the letter he expressed his immense gratitude to God and the church by thanking them for their generous gifts and, drew their attention to the significance of suffering in the spreading of the gospel of Jesus, and the peace and joy they could experience in spite of suffering. Last week we read a part of the letter in which Paul exhorted them to stop worrying or being anxious. Instead he challenged them to offer their worries and fears, with gratitude, to God and obtain peace. Moreover, he urged them to think about things that are true, noble, just, pure, honorable, gracious and praiseworthy, and follow his example so that the God of peace will be with them.
Today's text is a continuation of last week's message. In this text Paul seems to emphasize that we cannot find true peace by just avoiding worries and anxieties, and by focusing our thoughts on what is true, noble, pure and gracious but also by being content with our life. He wrote, "I know how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I can do all things in him who strengthens me."
When we read these words it becomes immediately clear to us that Paul knew what it was to be content. There is no doubt that Paul was a contented man. The word "content" comes from a Greek word autárkes which means self-sufficient or independent or to be satisfied. At the time of Paul, some Greeks explained the word as the ability to free or detach oneself from all wants or needs and emotions or to be indifferent to the needs and pains of this life. But Paul's contentment was something more than physical or emotional and material. His contentment was spiritual in nature. For most of us, a sense of well-being comes when our life is just the way we want it, but that was not the case with Paul. He said that he learned to be content in every circumstance. It means that Paul was content not only when good and happy things happened but also when he suffered. How was it possible? What was the secret to his contentment?
Paul's secrets to contentment were:
Friends, contentment is something all of us so desperately need in life. Most of us do not experience it to the degree that God desires us to. We live in a very discontent society. Many are more discontent than deprived people. Please ask yourself, "Can I say in whatsoever state I am today, I am content? Can I say that I'm content no matter what the circumstances are?"
If you are truly content and as a result perfectly at peace, give thanks to God. If you are discontent then, first, you need to be aware of four things - unrealistic expectations, unfair comparisons, unnoticed blessings and uncontrolled ambitions. Second, like the apostle Paul, you can learn and practice the secret of being content - by yielding to God's providence, by humbly appreciating even the small things in life and thanking God and others, by embracing everything what life brings to us and, by encouraging and praying for the well-being of others.
Finally, let us remember that we may have some peace with less or no worries and anxieties, and we may have a little more peace because of our noble thoughts and good deeds but we can find true peace only through spiritual contentment.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!