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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: November 1, 2022
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at St. Jude the Apostle Church in Jacksonville on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022.
All of us have climbed ladders and we know by personal experience that it is easier to go up a ladder than come down one. Going up you can see where you're going and the main challenge is to get from the ladder onto the roof without losing the ladder.
Going down is much harder. It's harder to get back on the ladder than it was to get off it and then you have to go down it without being able to see where you're going. You could fall if you miss a rung or think you've reached the bottom before you actually have. It's much harder to go down a ladder than to go up one.
We Americans value success and parents do all they can to motivate their children to do well, which in itself is a very good thing. Unfortunately, this often translates into a lot of pressure to succeed, as if the top of the ladder is where the greatest happiness is to be found: upward mobility.
True happiness is found not at the lonely top of the ladder, but rather at the well populated bottom of the ladder. Happiness comes not from worldly success, but rather from humble service.
We admire worldly success as if this were some great feat. But actually, going up the ladder isn't all that hard — people do it all the time. Indeed, most who try are able to climb up at least a few rungs of the corporate ladder in the course of their career.
Freely choosing to go down the ladder is much harder. But in the beatitudes, Jesus defies conventional wisdom by declaring that downward mobility is the path to happiness, not upward mobility. That true happiness is found not at the lonely top of the ladder, but rather at the well populated bottom of the ladder. Happiness comes not from worldly success, but rather from humble service.
Yet we resist going down this ladder because we're insecure and can't see where we're going or what will be waiting for us when we get there. Down the ladder of becoming poorer as the world judges wealth, less important by the standards of this world, hungry for God, tenderhearted, one who persuades people to get along, one who is misunderstood for speaking the truth.
In the beatitudes Jesus teaches us that downward mobility will lead us to joy in the reign of God. And what are the sins, the bad attitudes that are the opposite of the beatitudes? Well ...
We sin by choosing attitudes that lead us up the ladder, away from joy, away from God, away from the holiness that we celebrate on this All Saints Day. In the beatitudes Jesus points us down the ladder that leads to God and thus to genuine happiness: to that state whereby we become detached from material things, emotionally engaged, humble, self-sacrificing, merciful, focused on what God would want, patiently persuasive, taking courageous risks for the truth.
This is the true path to happiness that Jesus and all the saints mark out for us, and it can be reached only through downward mobility, by becoming the servant of all.