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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Sunday Meditation: If You Want to Be Happy for the Rest of Your Life......

O Lord, You made our hearts for Thee,

And ever restless will they be

Until they rest in Thee.

based on St. Augustine

The other day I wrote about happiness and the etymology of the word from Middle English meaning "luck, prosperity, and advantageous circumstances." That association can't hold up. Wealth and happiness are often mutually exclusive. How many rich people do you know or read about whose lives are a mess and families are miserable? Think of Hollywood, a glamorous hellhole filled with prosperous, unhappy people. A long-term marriage is rare, divorce and cohabitation the norm. How many wealthy people seek oblivion in drugs and alcohol. How many are addicted to sex and pornography? How many commit suicide?
But there was one association for "happiness" from the Welsh that links to the word, "wise." Wise comes from the Old English "wis" meaning "learned, sagacious, cunning; sane; prudent, discreet; experienced; having the power of discerning and judging rightly." Those attributes, in fact, are like road signs pointing to happiness as a possible destination. Of course, ultimate happiness is only attainable in heaven, but Jesus told his apostles, "the kingdom of God is within you." In other words, He tells us we can, indeed, experience a taste of the beatitude of the kingdom of heaven here and now. Do we have witnesses to that? Yes.

Think of the Roman martyrs who went to their deaths singing and praising God, in worldly terms inexplicable! What a demonstration of the "perfect love [that] casts out fear." On the scaffold, St. Thomas More joked with his executioner asking him to wait while he laid aside his long beard, "for that had committed no treason." Tradition has it that St. Lawrence was martyred by roasting alive on a gridiron and called out to his torturers, "Turn me over; I'm done on this side."

Many non-martyr saints are well known for their cheerfulness and good humor. St. Philip Neri is one of my favorites. He kept a notebook of jokes on his desk and had a sign over his door reading, "House of Mirth." As he gained a reputation for holiness, he pursued humility in some odd ways. He would often shave off half his beard and go about publicly to invite mockery and ridicule. He told his followers that, "The true way to advance in holy virtues, is to advance in a holy cheerfulness.” He's known as the laughing saint and if you want an experience of joy watch the film, I Prefer Heaven, about his life. It's somewhat fictionalized but delightful!

Philip Neri shows us the road to happiness is paved in humility and wisdom, and the beginning of wisdom, the Bible tells us, is "fear of the Lord." So a major prescription for finding happiness is to "fear the Lord." How can "fear" bring happiness? 

The Bible isn't talking about fearing a God of fire and brimstone. It challenges us to bend the knee with awe and wonder, to recognize the beauty and great love God has for us. It's a wonder and love that fills the heart to bursting. St. Philip Neri was so overcome with love that his heart expanded and actually broke two of his ribs. Think of the love that inspired Mary to such joy that she broke out in her song of praise, the Magnificat, when she met her cousin Elizabeth. Imagine her happiness as she glorified God saying, "My soul magnifies the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior."

Has your heart ever lifted up at a magnificent view in nature, the glory of a sunset, the majesty of the stars on a moonless night, or examining a single perfect rose? Doesn't beauty almost overwhelm your senses and fill you with joy? What mother's heart doesn't leap up when her newborn infant is laid in her arms?

Many poets get it. William Wordsworth, who called the Blessed Mother "our tainted nature's solitary boast," wrote this:

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

Wonder generates happiness, and we can experience it in the here and now. Children do, and if we keep a childlike spirit we will keep our sense of innocent wonder! 

But wonder and awe can only really live in those whose eyes are fixed, not on the world with its false promises, but on God. Conforming our wills to God's lets us begin heaven here on earth. We will still suffer, but it will be with the understanding that God only allows suffering for the good He brings from it. "Rejoice in the Lord always," says St. Paul. How can he urge his followers with that admonition unless happiness is possible here?

Happiness comes from doing the will of God, recognizing that His love for us is so great that nothing, even our deepest sorrows, can separate us from Him and that he will turn all mourning into joy in His time. "All things work together for good to those who love the Lord and serve according to His purpose."

St. John Bosco told his boys to "Love God and have as much fun as you can." He wanted to help children find God in the innocent pleasures of life. Happiness here ultimately begins within us when we dedicate ourselves to God and turn over our hearts and minds to Him. When we "rest in Him" here we will experience a foretaste of the happiness to come.

"Love God and do what you will," St. Augustine said. That's the secret of happiness!


Aqua said...

That is a beautiful meditation in happiness. And it is a much needed corrective to all the negative that fills our hearts and minds these days. I hope more bloggers, like you, can go down these paths and explain the power and force of the meaning of life, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is happiness in God, now and forever.

Coincidentally, I am reading through Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) right now in my annual journey through the Bible in a year (going through sequentially this year). And the whole point of this amazing Book, written only 200 years before Jesus Christ Our Lord, is to explain and preach on Wisdom. Wisdom, who was the first of God’s creations. God created her before time and took great delight in her. 51 chapters on wisdom in this Catholic Holy Book, which in my reading of your meditation, is that which you also conclude leads us to happiness.

Here is an excerpt from Ecclesiasticus 1: 1-26 which sets the stage for this Holy Word that comes from God -

1ALL wisdom is from the Lord God, and hath been always with him, and is before all time.
2Who hath numbered the sand of the sea, and the drops of rain, and the days of the world? Who hath measured the height of heaven, and the breadth of the earth, and the depth of the abyss?
3Who hath searched out the wisdom of God that goeth before all things?
4Wisdom hath been created before all things, and the understanding of prudence from everlasting.
5The word of God on high is the fountain of wisdom, and her ways are everlasting commandments.
6To whom hath the root of wisdom been revealed, and who hath known her wise counsels?
7To whom hath the discipline of wisdom been revealed and made manifest? and who hath understood the multiplicity of her steps?
8There is one most high Creator Almighty, and a powerful king, and greatly to be feared, who sitteth upon his throne, and is the God of dominion.
9He created her in the Holy Ghost, and saw her, and numbered her, and measured her.
10And he poured her out upon all his works, and upon all flesh according to his gift, and hath given her to them that love him.
11The fear of the Lord is honour, and glory, and gladness, and a crown of joy.
12The fear of the Lord shall delight the heart, and shall give joy, and gladness, and length of days.
13With him that feareth the Lord, it shall go well in the latter end, and in the day of his death he shall be blessed.
14The love of God is honourable wisdom.
15And they to whom she shall shew herself love her by the sight, and by the knowledge of her great works.
16The fear of the Lord Is the beginning of wisdom, and was created with the faithful in the womb, it walketh with chosen women, and is known with the just and faithful.
17The fear of the Lord is the religiousness of knowledge.
18Religiousness shall keep and justify the heart, it shall give joy and gladness.
19It shall go well with him that feareth the Lord, and in the days of his end he shall be blessed.
20To fear God is the fulness of wisdom, and fulness is from the fruits thereof.
21She shall fill all her house with her increase, and the storehouses with her treasures.
22The fear of the Lord is a crown of wisdom, filling up peace and the fruit of salvation:
23And it hath seen, and numbered her: but both are the gifts of God.
24Wisdom shall distribute knowledge, and understanding of prudence: and exalteth the glory of them that hold her.
25The root of wisdom is to fear the Lord: and the branches thereof are longlived.
26In the treasures of wisdom is understanding, and religiousness of knowledge: but to sinners wisdom is an abomination.

Or, as St, Augustine puts it - “Love God, and then do what you will”. Which will, of necessity, mean to pursue wisdom, righteousness and achieve happiness in the end.

Susan Matthiesen said...

The beauty of the Traditional Mass at the SSPX in Sanford FL is absolutely breathtaking. I can barely concentrate on the Missal for looking at the incredible beauty of the altar and the vestments of the priest. The spectacular beauty brings tears to my eyes. No Novus Ordo Mass could ever compare.

Aqua said...

Came across this.

"It is Jesus you seek, when you dream of happiness. He is waiting for you, when nothing else you find satisfies you".
- Pope John Paul II