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Where can we find the paradise of earth?

By Chudi Nicholas Adilieje
02 December 2021   |   3:11 am
It is easy to imagine the glorious splendour of heaven and how blissfully happy and peaceful life would be up there.

It is easy to imagine the glorious splendour of heaven and how blissfully happy and peaceful life would be up there. Everyone would, probably, love to have that heavenly joy even while still living in this world. Most people, indeed, wish for paradise here on earth, but do not really know where to find it.

The wisdom of the world tells us that if we make pleasure the main aim of life it would bring us heavenly joy. Yet people who are given to a life of fun, excitement and pleasure have always, in the end, been disappointed that they do not get the lasting happiness they crave. The seeming happiness of hedonists is like a flash of lightning—it is gone in a moment. Such people pander to every whim of their heart, yet never get satisfaction from them. They hanker after every luxury under the sky. Many wear themselves out in a selfish and often ruthless pursuit of wealth and power that would afford them a life of ease. Sadly, they often lose their peace and become miserable even in the midst of plenty. They fret over the slightest of difficulties and get embittered by commonplace misfortunes. Obviously, such a shallow philosophy of life does not provide anyone with the inner resources to deal with the troubles and sorrows of earthly life. They become disillusioned with life in general, and it seems hollow and meaningless.

Where could these people and indeed, everyone else find the paradise they wish to experience in their life on earth? St. Vincent de Paul points us to an unexpected direction, far away from the wisdom of the world. He says to us: ‘The Paradise of earth, like that of heaven, consists in Charity.’ St. Vincent de Paul tells us the simple truth: Love is the main ingredient of a happy life on earth as in heaven. He reminds us to love because God loves us (1 Jn 4.10, 19) and that if we put love first in everything we do, we would get true and lasting pleasure out of life. Recall that the Lord Jesus Christ has said that the entire divine laws hang on two great commandments: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,’ and ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’ (Mt 22:37-40).  St. Vincent de Paul is, therefore, simply telling us to obey God’s commandments, which have been given to us for our own good (Jer 7:23).

He wants us to know that we can only be happy when we love our fellow human beings with divine love, that is, that kind of love, which is inspired by Christ’s love for us. It is as our Lord Jesus Christ says: ‘I love you just as the Father loves me; remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love … I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My commandment is this: love one another as I love you’ (Jn 15.9-12 GNB). These words teach us that joy is the radiance of love. A joyful heart is one shining with love. God has placed his love in our hearts like the sun in the skies; and it is only when we share its rays that we become radiant with joy. Let us, then, dispel every dark cloud that closes our hearts against others and shine forth the rays of God’s love on our fellow human beings.

This is what St. Vincent de Paul, in obedience to the commands of Jesus, taught us by his words and by the example of his life. This dear saint of the poor wants us to take a genuine interest in the welfare of others. He wants us to care for others and do something good for them. He wants us to give help to those who need it. He wants us to see that there are people who need our help all around us – we all are poor in one aspect of life or another, after all. He also wants us to know that we all have something to give to others.

We can give our money; we can give our prayers and the warmth of our company. We can put our time, energy and intellect in the service of others. There are so many other things to give. We should care especially for the sick, for the aged, for those suffering, and for the poor and needy.

St. Vincent de Paul wants us to go beyond philanthropy, and do real charity. We should do more than hand out money and things to the poor and needy. He wants us to do so with love, otherwise it would amount to nothing in the sight of God (1 Cor 13.1-3). He wants us to cherish others. (Incidentally, the words charity and cherish share the same cognate roots.) He wants us to love and care for others as if everyone were another Christ, and because everyone is made in the image and likeness of God. In a way, he is saying to us: ‘if you want to be happy, be kind to the poor’ (Prov 14.21 GNB). He knows firsthand how much this enriches lives. He knows that it is uplifting to uplift others. He knows that one who delights in seeing others happy will not look too far for his own happiness. He knows it is a boon to our emotional balance to be united to the poor by a sense of common humanity. Besides, it is fulfilling to help spread God’s love. There is joy in seeing Christ in our neighbour.

Charity helps us to discover the supernatural in the prosaic side of life, in the weakness and troubles of earthly life – it’s not enough to be aware of God’s loving presence only in miracles or the bright side of life. By opening our eyes to the bond of divine love between us and those we give our help to, charity brings to the fore the fact that there is much more to life than worldly success. It makes us to take notice of so many blessings of God that we ordinarily take for granted. It helps us to get our values right and to appreciate God’s providence and so come to contentment. Besides, there are always the blessings promised the compassionate (Mt 5.7). Is it not amazing that it is on the basis of charity that we would be judged worthy or not of eternal bliss in the kingdom of heaven? (Mt 25.31-46). God has prepared a place in the heavenly Paradise for us to live hereafter, and only those who love Him are admitted to this life of perfect and eternal happiness. Yet we cannot love God whom we have not seen, if we do not love our fellow human beings whom we have seen (1 Jn 4.20).

Adilieje, an engineer and writer, is a former editor of Evangelizer, a bulletin published by the Vincentian Retreat Centre, Ojodu, Lagos, an outreach of the Congregation of the Mission. facebook.com/chudi.adilieje

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