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A RECIPE FOR HAPPINESS

Father Francis's picture
Sixth Week of Ordinary Time

Lk. 6:17-26

Do you want to be happy? Of course you do! But are you certain as to how this can be achieved? Jesus has the answer in today's Gospel. Let us reflect on the words that Jesus used and His suggestion that many of us are not finding happiness - because we are looking for it in the wrong places.

Firstly, we need to recognise that what we really should be seeking is not temporary happiness, but long-term blessedness. Jesus begins with a list of conditions to describe blessedness or lasting happiness. We should not be seeking the fleeting emotion of giddiness nor laughter, nor the euphoria we associate with happiness. For such emotions are fleeting. Our definition of happiness is usually tied to external circumstances. Some of these are trivial. Did our favourite sports team win or will we receive the invitation to the dance by that good-looking boy or that attractive girl in sixth form.

That is not the kind of happiness that Jesus offers us. His is real happiness. He calls us to be blessed, not just happy. Blessedness is long-term well-being and not tied to external circumstances. In fact, it seems to thrive in the face of adversity. Listen to the list of those who experience this blessedness in the sermon of Jesus - the poor, the hungry, the weeping, the unpopular. Does that sound like a line-up of happy folks to you? Yet Jesus dares to turn our conventional wisdom on its head, suggesting that blessedness survives such devastating life circumstances because it does not draw its source from the things that happen to us. Blessedness draws its source from the God who offers it.

Do you want to live a life of joy and contentment that is consistent through the ever-changing conditions of life? If the answer is yes, then seek the happiness that God can offer you. Rest in His word that you are blessed in Him. Tie your sense of peace and security and self-esteem in His desire to call you blessed, not in the performance of the stock market or your social calendar. For if you are settled in your relationship with God, and draw your life-force from Him, you will find that those other factors gradually lose their power over you.

Secondly, realize that blessedness is a gift, not a reward. You do not possess it; it possesses you. Did you notice the language of Jesus in our lesson? He does not present blessedness as a hidden treasure that we must find. He offers blessedness as a gift from God, for those who open their hands and hearts to receive it. It is not a trophy to be won. Blessedness is not available for those who think that it can be garnered by hard work or aggressive behaviour. In fact, such thinking probably has the opposite result, blocking the path to receiving the blessedness God intends for us.

If we think happiness is found in expensive houses, fast cars, abundant food, constant entertainment and a full social calendar, we may have little need for God should those ambitions be achieved. These things can be accomplished by hard work and social skill, but they may leave little scope for an awareness God - the only source of true happiness in this life and the only One Who can carry us to blessedness after our lives are through. That is why Jesus said the poor, the hungry, the weeping and the unpopular are closer to blessedness. All they have to offer God is their emptiness, not their fullness.

All God asks of any of us is that we come to Him with openness and willingness to receive His graces and to serve Him in return. Sometimes the poor, the hungry, the grieving and the outcast can find that openness easier than those of us who have managed to take care of ourselves in the affairs of this world.
If you are used to being in charge, it may be difficult for you to come to God as a little one, with need for God to carry you. If you are full from life's bounty of money and food, it may be difficult for you to discover the spiritual hunger for the gifts of God that you could never afford nor deserve. If you are popular, it may be difficult for you to be willing to sacrifice that popularity if your faith demands it. Jesus offers the only path to true happiness. He asks us to carve out enough empty space in our souls to receive the gift of blessedness, and having received it, to arrange our lives around the sure knowledge that we are God's blessed children.

Lord Jesus, may we stop searching for material wealth and earthly happiness, and be content to rest in our heavenly Father's blessedness. It is then that we will find that true happiness we have been seeking so hard to find has been looking for us all along.

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