As Americans, we are entitled to, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Awhile ago I wrote about our broken vision of liberty and the true freedom that can only be found in Christ. Now it’s time to talk about happiness and what most people don’t know they are truly hungering for: joy.
In a recent Washington Post article, “A Catholic ‘war on women’”, the non-Catholic author, who is obviously so knowledgeable about the inner workings of the Church, scolds the men of the Church for oppressing women, especially Sisters(wrongly called nuns, but that’s a whole other tangent). At one point she writes, “I’m not a Catholic but when I attend services I want to feel holy and spiritual and uplifted. I want to feel the transcendent, the divine. I want to be reassured of the goodness of the world and not the evil.”
One of the reasons I love the Catholic Church is that we don’t sugar coat things; we are not about feeling good. We are about going through the purifying fire of purgatory in order to be fully united with a loving and merciful God. We place the bloody crucifix as the centerpiece of our churches. We honor Saints who experienced the wounds of Christ. We engage in physical penance, like fasting, to remind us of our insatiable hunger which only God can satisfy. We are in the business of saving souls, not making them feel good. Having the self-control to avoid sin is really hard and often painful; We generally need to be broken in order to be healed. We don’t want you to just feel holy, we want you to be holy.
The author of this article is looking for happiness. However, happiness is generally temporary because it is based on temporary things. Eating chocolate cake makes us happy, but eventually the cake will be gone. On a more serious level, being with loved ones makes us happy, but they may leave, betray us and eventually die. When paired with our obsession with instant gratification, our pursuit of happiness is further frustrated. Not only do we want to be happy, we want to be happy NOW. How often does this actually happen though?
Let’s go back to the example of feeling good in church. What happens when we don’t feel uplifted or have a spiritual experience during Mass? Let’s face it, sometimes the homily is boring and the music is lacking. Sadly, the solution for many is to simply stop attending Mass. Newsflash: Mass is not about you. It’s about coming together with other believers to worship the almighty God and to remember the ultimate sacrifice of His Son. No matter how boring it may seem, there is a glorious and beautiful veiled mystery going on during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Mass provides us nourishment, whether we feel it right away or not. Mass is an important way for us to build a relationship with God and the fact is building a relationship with anyone takes time and effort.
God desires to grant us joy, which can only be found in Him. Joy is the deep-rooted eternal knowledge that no matter what, God loves us and desires our good. Joy is ultimate confidence in God. Joy is eternal, because God is eternal. Finding joy sometimes requires going through suffering. It is possible to be joyful and unhappy, if you trust in the eternal joy found in heaven through earthly hardships.
I’ve realized recently that the ongoing theme of this blog is that of finding satisfaction solely in God, and God alone. The importance of placing all our hope, happiness and joy in God has been impressed on my heart lately. The moment we put our hope for happiness in anything other than the unfailing love of God, we set ourselves up for disappointment.
Psalm 4, which appears in Night Prayer on Saturday, says: “What can bring us happiness?” many say. “Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord. You have put into my heart a greater joy than they have from abundance of corn and new wine.”