Temperately Ready

King Solomon prayed that the Lord would spare him both poverty and superfluity. “Provide me only with the food I need” (Proverbs 30:8). Better to have only the necessities, with nothing added. After all, the Lord told us to “take nothing for the journey” (Luke 9:3).

SONY DSCWise king Solomon wanted to focus on other things than his material needs and desires. Namely, praising God and seeking the truth.

Three points, if I might:

1. The Lord provides enough for everyone to eat and drink, and not starve, and not freeze to death in the cold. He has no plan for anyone to luxuriate in this world. Not because He doesn’t want us to be happy; He actually has better things planned for us.

2. The wise person cultivates the cardinal virtue of temperance. The temperate person fasts and feasts, according to reason, proportion, “appropriateness.” Temperance allows us to focus on spiritual pursuits, leaving us to eat, drink, sleep, exercise, and have sex according to what makes sense, given the realities of our particular individual lives. Being temperate in our desires frees us to act justly in all our dealings with others, giving everyone what is due them.

3. If you have a good memory, you will recall that two years ago we went over these exact same points. We had these same readings on the feast day of the martyrs Cosmas and Damien.

Cosmas and Damien bear the crown of martyrdom, along with all the holy martyrs. But, of course, the martyrs of Christ only wind up with crowns of martyrdom because of external events beyond their control. Martyrs are always glad to continue their work on earth, whatever it may be, if such be the divine will. The virtues of justice and temperance allow us to do our work on earth well, whatever that work may be, because we stand ready to obey God, without unreasonable self-indulgences getting in the way.

In other words, If we hold in our hands crowns of justice and temperance, if our consciences do not accuse us of any abuse of this world’s goods, then we can live precisely the life the Lord gives us to live.

The temperate Christian can say to St. Peter and St. Paul, to St. Joseph, St. Francis, and all the saints: “Denizens of the court of heaven, I stand ready to serve. Please present me to Christ. If it be His will that I remain on earth today, then give me the grace to serve well here. If today is my day to suffer death, let it come.”

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