Once upon a time there was a rich lord who had four wives. He simply adored the fourth and adorned her with rich garments and treated her with the finest of food. He gave her nothing but the best. He also loved his third wife very much and was always bragging about her to his friends. However, he had this gut feeling that one day she would leave him for another.
He also loved his second wife. She was always considerate and patient with him. Whenever the lord had an issue, he could confide in her, and she would normally help him through. But for the first wife, the lord did not care much. She was very loyal and did her best to give him the best but he simply did not love her. He hardly even took notice of her!
Even good things tend to pass away and so one day the lord was on his deathbed. He asked his fourth wife to come over, “I have loved you the most and took great care of you. Now that I’m dying, will you follow me and keep me company?” “No way!” she replied and she just walked away. His heart sank and turned cold.
The unhappy lord then asked the third wife, “I have loved you all my life. Now that I’m dying, will you follow me and keep me company?” “No!” she replied. “Life is too good; most probably I shall remarry!” Her answer cut like a sharp knife right into his heart.
He entreated the second wife with the same request. But again, “I’m sorry, I can’t help you out this time!” was the reply. “I am limited also.” The lord was distressed.
Someone then called out: “I’ll go with you. I’ll follow you no matter where you go.” It was his first wife. She was noticeably emaciated as she had suffered from neglect. Realizing his mistake, the lord said, “I should have taken much better care of you when I had the chance!”
This is our story. All of us have four wives. Our fourth wife is our body. We live in a culture that gratifies our bodies to the extreme. And yet no matter how much time and effort we lavish in making it look good, it will leave us when we die. Our third wife is our possessions, status and wealth. Napoleon ironically once remarked, “A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.” When we die – believe it or not! -it will all go to others. Our second wife is our family and friends. They can be great but the furthest they can stay by us is up to the grave. That is all.
And our fourth wife is our soul. Too often we neglect it in pursuit of riches, power and pleasures of the world. However, our soul is the only reality that will follow us wherever we go; it will continue marching with us throughout eternity.
The Chinese Lin Yu Tang is right, Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials. Three wives are dispensable. One is not.
Let us be wise before it is too late!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.