The Imitation of Christ–Happiness is simple, really.

I went to the bookshelf last night to grab a little reading before bed, and picked up a book that I haven’t looked at in quite sometime, Thomas a Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ.  I opened the book up to a section on consolation and abandonment to Divine Providence, and thought I’d share a few paragraphs that I think are very helpful in having a sane and healthy view of homosexuality.

Whatever consolation I can imagine or desire I look for not in this present life but in the one to come.  It is certain that if I alone had all this world’s comforts and were able to enjoy all its pleasures, they would not last very long.

Hence, my soul, you cannot find complete consolation nor total refreshment except in God, who consoles the poor and sustains the humble.  Just wait a while longer, my soul, wait for the fulfillment of God’s promise and you will enjoy an abundance of good things in heaven.  If you desire the good things of this present life more than you should, you will lose those of heaven and eternity.  Make use of temporal things, but desire eternal things.  Temporal goods will never fully satisfy you because you were not created for their sole enjoyment.

Even if you possessed all created goods, this still could not make you happy and blessed for your joy an beatitude is in God, the Creator of all things.  This is not the happiness that the lovers of this world praise and extol, but the happiness that Christ’s good and faithful followers seek and of which the pure of heart, whose conversation is in heaven, sometimes have a foretaste.

All human consolation is short-lived and empty; but true and blessed is that consolation that is interiorly received from Truth itself.

The devout man carries Jesus, his consoler, with him wherever he goes, and says to him:  “Lord Jesus, be with me in all places and at all times.  Let my willing renunciation of all human comfort be my consolation.  And if I find that I am without your consolation, then let Your will and the trial You send me be a greater consolation to me for You will not always chide me, nor will You  keep Your anger forever.

I love this section in particular:

If you desire the good things of this present life more than you should, you will lose those of heaven and eternity.  Make use of temporal things, but desire eternal things.  Temporal goods will never fully satisfy you because you were not created for their sole enjoyment.

We are to enjoy the goods of this world:  to the fullest!  Obedience and complete abandonment to God doesn’t lead to a miserable life, but actually freedom to enjoy life more, which seems strange to most people.  Here’s the thing:  I won’t ever be happy if I attempt to find more enjoyment from temporal goods than they were intended to bring me.  When they’re in their proper place, viewed as great gifts from God that reflect His love for me, then they are far more enjoyable than if I tried to find my happiness from them.  It’s beautifully ironic, but I think this applies to all things:  friendships, marriage, food, beer, beauty, music, philosophy, art–all that is good in the world becomes BETTER and more enjoyable and truly a gift when we stop trying to find our happiness there.

I recently spoke to four high school classes at a Catholic school.  One of the students asked why God would give us a sex drive, and then ask us to live chastely.  I told them it was because God wanted them to have immense enjoyment of sex throughout their lives, saying that “when God made sex, He said it was good.”  I told them that the very strength of their sex drive was a sign of God’s profound love for us, as well as the enjoyment of sex.  God wanted them to have sex that was mind-blowingly good and pleasurable beyond compare–but that this actually could only happen when sex was placed in its proper place in their lives.  They were shocked how much I praised the gift of sex, but to be honest, some people in the Church are far too prudish when it comes to sex.  Sex is raw, sweaty, messy and primal, and it was made that way by God, to be fully enjoyed–but it can only truly be enjoyed to its fullest within the bounds for which it was created.  St. Irenaeus said that the “Glory of God is man fully alive,” and this relates to a full enjoyment of the good and created things of this world.  But man can only fully enjoy them at the point at which he renounces them as substitutes for the consolation that can only come to us from seeking all consolation from God.

It’s really pretty simple!  Enjoy the world more, by not seeing your happiness as coming from anything, or anyone, in the world.  Then we have the freedom to love fully, to enjoy all that is, in its proper place.  And when life doesn’t go well, we are not surprised, and trust that this is allowed by God for our good, and to lead us to lean on Him even more.

This, I’m convinced, is the great purpose God has given to same-sex attraction–to point to all of us who live with same-sex attraction that this is not our home, so that then we can enjoy it all the more, and love others more, and love God more, always looking and longing for heaven.  As St.Paul says, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.”  I can’t wait to get to Heaven, but in the meantime, I plan to be a man, “fully alive” and to take very seriously “to live is Christ.”  No man has enjoyed life more than Christ, because He never looked for the created things of the world to bring him consolation.  I am beginning to think that part of “to live is Christ” is to denounce the world and its consolations, which then leads to more enjoyment of the world than was ever possible before.  The ways of God are funny, aren’t they?