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If It Feels Good, Do It, Right?
Different parts of the Bible speak to different generations in different ways. Some generations have been challenged and rebuked especially strongly by the parts of the New Testament speaking of the brotherhood of all mankind, leading to the abolition of various forms of inequality. Other generations have been called to account for their neglect of the poor and embrace of luxury; others, the need to struggle for righteousness.
For our generation, I propose this passage:
Once, when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, "Let me gulp down some of that red stuff; I am famished." That is why he was called Edom. But Jacob replied, "First sell me your right as firstborn." "Look," said Esau, "I am on the point of dying. What good is the right as firstborn to me?" But Jacob said, "Swear to me first!" So he sold Jacob his right as firstborn under oath. Jacob then gave him some bread and the lentil stew; and Esau ate, drank, got up, and went his way. So Esau treated his right as firstborn with disdain — Gn 25:29-34.
We live in an age uniquely enslaved to its belly, to our appetites and desires, to whatever seems to satisfy and gives us pleasure for the moment. "If it feels good, do it!" That hippie rallying cry has since become the defining slogan of our lives, guiding our advertising — and our response to advertising.
"If it feels good, do it."
Just like Esau, we neglect our rights and responsibilities as the children of God, the inheritors of an eternal kingdom, in order to follow our desires and pleasures wherever they lead. We tend to trust our appetites, our desires, believing they will lead us to happiness, to satisfaction, that if we do what we want to do, what we most deeply and strongly desire to do, then we will be glad.
That's a lie wrapped around a profound truth, really, for of course, the deepest desires of the human heart are all ultimately directed at God. Our desire for perfect happiness, perfect contentment, perfect pleasure, perfect peace — really, we desire Heaven. We desire communion with God.
But we are fallen. Our desires are all too often disordered — that is, often ordered or directed at the wrong person, place or thing, at the wrong time, in the wrong fashion. For instance, all too often, I'd rather have chocolate than vegetables. Many people today would rather have money than the love of their neighbors, or power rather than integrity, or peace and security rather than freedom with courage. We often mistake creatures for their Creator, earthly goods for the ultimate Good that is God.
Why? Because God is more concerned with reality than with how we feel about it. He'd rather have us holy than feeling content; He'd rather have us be good than feel good. He wants us to be truly happy, which is not always the same thing as feeling happy in this life. As Our Lady said to St. Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes: "I do not promise to make you happy in this life, but in the next."
And so we are called beyond the "wisdom" of our bellies, of our desires. We are called to gauge our desires according to the teachings of Christ and His Church, allowing a higher wisdom than that of our feelings, our desires, to guide us. Indeed, we must trust, as St. Faustina reiterates over and over all throughout her Diary, even in the midst of darkness, suffering, and sorrow, for our God is a God of love and truth, leading us beyond our own knowledge, our own wisdom, to say and do things of such power and goodness as to set a light for all the world to see.
We are called into communion with the eternal Trinity, into life divine in the family of God, as Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, explains in The 'One Thing' is Three. All too often, we must say or do things that do not feel good, that do not give us an instant rush of pleased satisfaction, that call us out of our comfortable little worlds and into the great world beyond. We are to follow the star out of our homelands in order to find the Christ Child; we are to follow the prophet out of Egypt and into the desert for decades to find the Promised Land; we are to live and die in the service of God, and in so doing, be born again into everlasting life.
We — all of us, including me, especially me — need to set aside the god of our bellies, our feelings and disordered desires, in this life, in obedience to God and the true needs of our nature, the true needs of our souls. Set aside the lesser for the greater; the creature for the Creator; the idol for the true worship of the living God in spirit and in truth; and in time, we shall truly be a light to the nations, salt of the earth, a city set on a hilltop that cannot be hid. We shall be sons and daughters of the living God. All our desires shall then be rightly ordered, and all of them satisfied.