Saint Thomas Aquinas makes this very important assertion: every person is searching for happiness. This may appear to be a common sense statement. However, we must then ask, Why is it that so many people, today more than ever before, have long faces, open up their mouths to gossip and criticize and condemn, suffer despair and sadness? Why? There must be a response to the apparent “unhappiness” of so many.
The response to the above question might appear to many to be more than obvious, but it must be stated with the utmost simplicity. The unhappy people of the world, described above, are simply looking for happiness in the wrong places!
Pleasure and Happiness
Many people think that pleasure is synonymous with happiness; nothing could be further from the truth! Indeed, a lot of money can buy a lot of pleasure, beyond the shadow of a doubt. Nonetheless, all the money in the world cannot buy true happiness of the heart. (Even the Beatles had it right in their classic song of the 60’s—Money can’t buy me love!)
As a matter of fact, many very rich people suffer from unhappiness. If this is the case, then where can we discover true happiness? Where is it to be found? In money? In pleasure? In wine and women? In the Casino and vino? In sex and porn? In power domination over others? In millionaire mansions, yachts, and exotic and expensive vacations? The response to all of the above is a resounding no!
Then where and when and how can true happiness be found, if indeed it can be found at all?
True Happiness in God Alone
Until he was 31 years of age Augustine, one of the most brilliant saints and Fathers of the Latin Church, was searching for happiness in pleasure and ended up in total disillusionment. He tried sex, power and various philosophical thought systems. But none of these satisfied his deepest yearnings, the real and sincere cravings of his heart.
Slavery to sexual pleasure had the young Augustine bound in chains, so much so that one of his prayers was: “Lord, grant me chastity, but not yet!” Young and passionate Augustine knew in the very depths of his heart that pursuing sex could not satisfy his deepest yearnings; only God could!
Finally, after years of struggle and moral failures Augustine capitulated; he gave in to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and was baptized by Saint Ambrose in Milan, with his mother Saint Monica present. In his classic literary piece Confessions, Augustine asserted what is the central core of this short article, “O Lord, you have made our hearts for thee, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”
There we have it! True and everlasting happiness can only be found in God and God alone.
Joy in the Lord
Saint Ignatius of Loyola suggests that while contemplating the Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in these Easter contemplations, that we beg for this fruit (virtue)—Joy!
However, Ignatius insists that not only do we beg for joy, but the most intense joy. Once again, we must emphasize this point: joy in Jesus! Our true joy can only be found and lived out in an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ! He has truly risen from the dead after having been nailed to the cross for the purification of our many sins.
As we proclaim in Holy Mass immediately after the Consecration: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again!
The historical fact of the Risen Jesus, that He has truly risen from the dead, should result in an explosion of grace, light, peace and joy in the entire world. Jesus came to the world as Savior, not just for one people or one set of beliefs. On the contrary, Jesus died and rose from the dead for all of humanity and for each of us individually!
The word Catholic means universal—open to all who open up their hearts to receive Him. May all of us who have had this true and transforming encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, not be shy in sharing this joy with the entire world.
Jesus commands us: “Go out into the whole world and teach them what I taught you, and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; and behold I am with you always even until the end of the world.” (Mt 28:19-20)
Our Lady, Cause of our Joy
Finally, one of the most efficacious means by which we can really live out joy is by means of an encounter with Mary, Our Lady, the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, the Cause of our Joy. Not only do we pray the five Joyful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary, but also Our Lady in her canticle of praise, sometimes known as the Magnificat, expresses where and how and with whom we can truly discover joy and live it to the fullest extent possible. Read and pray over these words that exploded in a hymn of praise and joy from the Immaculate Heart of Mary: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” (Lk 1:46-55) How true are these words of Our Lady, Cause of our Joy!
Only in God, only in knowing God, only in encountering God, only in communicating with God, only in loving God, only in surrendering our lives to God (in imitation of Our Lady) can we truly experience a true and abiding joy and happiness now and for all eternity! So with Saint Paul let us our lift our hearts to God: “Rejoice in the Lord; I say it again: rejoice in the Lord!”(Phil 4:4) and: “This is the day the Lord has made: let us be glad and rejoice in it!”(Ps 118:24)
image: fresco of the Resurrection, c. 1423-4 and attributed to Blessed Fra’ Angelico (National Gallery London), photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)