By Archbishop Henry D’Souza
I was challenged by the question, “Who creates tension in our lives?” A little reflection made me realise that there are several sources of tension. Tension could come from expectations unfulfilled. Tensions emerge from set goals which are difficult to achieve or even impossible for our limited resources. At exam time students want to get a first class with high marks so as to qualify for college or for national exams. Many of these ideals are wonderful and praiseworthy. However they are not always achievable, this then is a source of tension.
I have always been happy to grow with the motto of St. Xavier’s College “Nihil Ultra” – “Nothing Higher”. The aim is to achieve the best that is possible for the person. It does not mean success or competition with another. It was an ideal to which students were encouraged “Nothing Higher”, the best you can do.
In fact when I went to the seminary in 1941, I wrote to my Archbishop F. Perier S.J., that I had stood first in the half-yearly exam. His reply was sobering and I have remembered it ever since. He wrote, “I congratulate you but I am not much impressed by the results of any examination. I would rather want your assurance that you are doing your best. This would be my greatest joy.”
It was a lesson learnt very early in my priestly formation. Much later I would read the lines of the Cure of Ars, repeated also by Mother Teresa, “God does not expect us to be successful. He only wants us to be faithful.”
Doing one’s best, without getting depressed by failure or anxious about success, can be very satisfying and rewarding. A little girl in Class 6 of Loreto Sealdah was asked by me what she was studying. The answer was Bengali. I asked her if she had passed. Her reply was that she was doing better than previously. This is the right approach - improvement on the past, not necessarily success.
A man was praying earnestly to know God’s will when he heard a voice saying, “Push the boulder in front of your house.” He went out to see what he could do. The boulder was huge and deeply embedded in the ground. However he went about the task of obeying the voice he heard. Morning, noon and evening he pushed the boulder. He pushed and pushed and pushed. People passed by and smiled. Some ridiculed him. After some months he went back to pray with complaints about the mission he was given. “Lord” he said, “I am pushing and pushing and nothing is happening. I am becoming an object of ridicule. Please guide me.” Then he heard the same voice saying to him “I told you to push the boulder. I did not tell you to move it.”
Fidelity to the Lord’s command is itself success. Doing the daily work to be accomplished, being available at the right moment for one’s duty, preparing meals for the family on time, all these routine tasks may seem of very little value. But to such as these, the Lord says, “Good and faithful servant, you have been faithful over little things, I will place you over much.”
Tension that comes from expectations or from comparisons with others or from failure, need to be met with the common sense of fidelity. When that is done, tensions decrease. The world of aggressive competition and the mad rush to be successful and on the top is by passed. We settle down into a situation, where joy and peace are available because we are faithful to the duties we have.
This is not a call to mediocrity. Rather it is a challenge to excel without stress or tension. Nihil Ultra. I am doing the best that I can. God does not expect more. The world may feel disappointed. But then I am not created to please the world. I am on duty for the sake of doing God’s will.