What’s your definition of success?

What’s your definition of success?

What does it mean to listen to the heart? And what is the definition of success for a Christian?

Readings: Luke 9:22-25

The following homily was preached to the student brothers at compline. You can listen here or read below:


I remember quite vividly, a few years ago, walking down a rainy street in Camden with my hood on listening to music, and on shuffle a particular song came on. It was a rapper who said, “what’s your definition of success? I don’t trust the thoughts that come inside my head. I don’t trust this thing that beats inside my chest, who I am, and who I want to be cannot connect. Why?” I didn’t think much of it at the time, because I was in one of these moods where I was just appreciating the vibe of the song but earlier this week, as I was looking at this gospel, I saw that he’d actually released a new song in response to the earlier song. Here he says, “what’s your definition of success? Listening to what your heart says.” So there’s this juxtaposition of “I can’t trust this thing, that beast inside my chest”, but now, “listening to what your heart says.” It’s worth noting that this song that just came out is called hope. I think that there is a truth to this, when it comes to looking at our heart. On one hand, we can’t trust our heart, we’re fallen creatures, and due to concupiscence, we often desire things that we don’t actually want. Then on the other hand, we have this natural desire for God, as our supreme good; as St. Augustine says, “our hearts are restless until we find our rest in you.” So, it would seem that listening to our hearts should take us to God.

Well, let’s ask ourself, what is Scripture’s definition of success? I have a few ideas: “To know God, and Jesus Christ, whom God has sent (John 17:3)”; “to be where Christ was before the world was made and see Him in His glory (John 17:24)”; “to open the door when Christ knocks, so that he can come into our hearts and dine with us (Revelation 3:20).” Also from the Psalms the psalmist says, “one thing I ask of the Lord, for this I long, to dwell in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life,” and he goes on to say “of you my heart has spoken: seek His face (Psalm 139).” It’s quite clear that for scripture, there’s this element of the hearts natural longing for God, that will only be will be fulfilled, in our union with God in heaven, and yet, we’re still fighting with ourselves, “who I am, and who I want to be, don’t seem to connect.” When we come to Lent, I think that we can think of it as a season of purification for our hearts, where our desires themselves are purified. This happens both inside out and outside in. By this I mean that we can come to see what our motivations are that are leading us to want to pray, to fast and to give alms. At the same time, it can also be that our prayer, and our fasting and almsgiving purify our heart, and we can see where it is that our hearts leading us it. Is it leading us to something that’s not making me happy? Or is it bringing me closer to seeing the face of God?

In the Gospel, Christ presents us with I think, two mirrors. You have Him rejected by the elders, chief priests and scribes, killed. Then you have Him being raised on the third day. I often find it quite powerful thinking of Pilate, presenting Christ to the crowd after being scourged and saying “behold, the man (John 19:5).” There’s almost a sense of him saying, “this is what humanity is”, without realising it. There are two senses of this because in one sense, it’s that Christ is there showing how deformed we’ve become because of sin; but He’s also showing us the consequence of our rejection of God. Sometimes we need to look at this picture of Christ being rejected scourged and standing there as a mirror of our own rejection. Yet it doesn’t stop there because it’s the mirror of God’s charity, that he came down to present Himself like that.

The second mirror Christ raised again on the third day and I think this is a mirror of our own intrinsic dignity, raised to life by grace. It’s a mirror of hope. Christ goes on to say in the Gospel, “if any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow Me.” There’s that conditional there, “if any want to become my followers,” and I think it’s taken for granted that you want to become Christ’s followers. Still, I think we can actually connect the two mirrors with this conditional. I think, we’re called to ponder on Christ’s suffering, and resurrection, and to allow the love that’s presented there, to spark a love in our own hearts, and to recognise in the heart a longing for Christ.

This is a quote from St. Catherine’s dialogue where Christ says to her:
“Open the eye of your
intellect, and gaze into Me, and you shall see the beauty of My rational creature. And
look at those creatures who, among the beauties which I have given to the soul,
creating her in My image and similitude, are clothed with the nuptial garment (that
is, the garment of love), adorned with many virtues, by which they are united with
Me through love. And yet I tell you, if you should ask Me, who these are, I should
reply” (said the sweet and amorous Word of God) “they are another Myself,
inasmuch as they have lost and denied their own will, and are clothed with Mine,
are united to Mine, are conformed to Mine.”

Then St. Catherine add: “It is therefore true, indeed, that the soul unites herself with God by the affection of love.”

So, we can ask ourselves as we start lent, what will be our definition of success? I propose this:
Hearts transformed and healed by love, to become a place where we listen to Christ’s heart, speaking unto our heart.

Br Reginald is a student brother in simple vows. He was born in London and grew up in Hounslow, before reading physics and UCL and then a PGCE at St. Mary’s, Twickenham. He met the Dominicans as a student in London and joined the Order in 2021 after spending some time teaching abroad. He was particularly influenced by the writings of St. Augustine as a teenager which drew him towards the religious life. His other interests include karate, rugby, comic books and playing the piano. He is particularly inspired by the writings of St. Catherine of Siena and St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross.

Comments (3)

  • T. Jayerajah

    Wow what a beautiful, well scripted, well written, and well presented piece of Gospel Reflection of Lent. You are a gift from God, and we are so proud of you. Keep up the good work. GOD bless you.

  • JCM

    Beautiful Reflection – this one spoke to the heart. Thank you for sharing.

  • Conchita Legorburo Serra

    What is success? That is what I asked in every single school my children went to.
    In fact what I asked is why they were all so interested in success! As it was clearly academic and professional success they referred to (where did that leave mother’s at home, that I was, even though I had plenty of qualifications for a “life success”).
    Thanks indeed for a wonderful article! that I will share widely, and to start with with the schools!
    God bless you.


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