Rev. Fr. Aju Philip Mathews - The Keys to a Successful Life

Author’s Information
Rev. Fr. Aju Philip Mathews,
Assistant Vicar of St. Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral of Philadelphia


 The Keys to a Successful Life

Let me begin by acknowledging that the title of my devotional is a bit pretentious given that my life has been far from successful ineverything I have set out to do. Also, I am far from an expert on experiencing success as the world has defined it. But it is within that last statement that I find the reason to even comment on such a topic. See, the world has always defined success for us. Success is having wealth, never being hungry or needy. Success is having a good name in the communities we live. Success is having health, being fit and beautiful in the eyes of society that is constantly judging us. And with the new year upon us and many unattainable resolutions about our successes, goals, and life changes for the year hanging above our heads, I felt like we could use a look at this with some fresh eyes.

Recently, at a housewarming, I heard a brother priest preach to the family about what true love and happiness was. He taught that the Gospel story of Zacchaeus gave us insight into the moment that a person can truly achieve happiness and true success. Until Zacchaeus the tax-collector had heard about Jesus, his life was about achieving success and happiness. He was the typical tax-collector of his time: greedy, opportunistic, parasitic, and concerned about only one person: himself. Yet, when he had heard about a rabbi named Jesus, who promised eternal life and true peace, Zacchaeus jumped at the opportunity to go to see Him. Making an extreme effort to see, the short Zacchaeus climbs the sycamore tree. There, Jesus sees him, invites Himself to his house. Zacchaeus joyfully receives the Lord, despite the complaints of the people. The presence of the Lord in Zacchaeus’s house changes Zacchaeus. He is still a man who is looking for success and happiness, but those things are no longer tied to this world. Zacchaeus knows true salvation and joy in his life, when he not only gives back what he wrongly took, but when he gives it back four fold. And, when he gives half of what he has to the poor. When he gives back to the needy and gives of himself enough to hurt his financial and social status, Jesus says to him, “Today salvation has come to this house…” Success!

And isn’t that really what the true meaning of love is? To give until it hurts. To sacrifice so that we might know what it is to want, the way a babe wants nothing more than the touch and care of his/her mother. No amount of toys or fancy clothes or status symbols makes a child happier than to know the love and care of its’ mother. That should be our relationship to our Lord: To want Him with our whole heart, soul and mind.

Our success is directly tied to our dependence on Christ and our independence from our mortal ties. This is not to say that the world is evil. All that the Lord creates is good, as we read in Genesis. However, we know that when our ties to earthly things supersede our ties to heavenly things, we never truly know happiness. What we build up in homes, cars, and material wealth can be easily torn down by strong winds and rain, as people in New Orleans, the Jersey Shore and New York can attest to. What we build up in our status and name can just as easily be destroyed by news of our one wrong-doing or weakness. Like our Lord says, until we are willing to give up house and home, family and friends, to take up His Cross, we will not be able to enter the Kingdom. That Kingdom is true success, unending joy, and eternal happiness. We have to let our hands free of the things that perish in order to hold onto the things that never perish.

May the Spirit of Wisdom and Truth fill our hearts with strength and courage to love until it hurts.