Kind of an interesting question, don’t you think? I wonder if each of us would answer in different ways. Would the answer of a child be different from that of a teenager or an adult? How about the response of an 80-year-old person – would it be very different from that of a 30 something? I wonder how my answer to this question has changed over the years. I mean there was a time when my graduate education and career were uppermost in my mind. Another chapter, when my social life had high priority.
Is the “happiness” thing a sliding scale, changing from day to day or week to week? I ask the question because these past weeks the readings at Mass have provoked me to wonder why I am happy and what causes my happiness. For example, on Friday this week (1/25) we celebrate the feast of the conversion of Saint Paul. The reflections around the feast of St. Paul
detail that after Paul’s conversion, his whole life became one of service to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His own will was so impacted by love of Christ that it became configured to Christ’s will. This harmony of wills fueled by love explained Paul’s amazing and ever present Joy, even in the midst of suffering of all kinds. Paul would go on to write that his life included times of wealth and of poverty, times of hunger and of abundance, times of success and of failure, and he had come to regard everything as having little value other than his relationship with Christ.
Perhaps it is, therefore, that the only common denominator in life that brings happiness to any person at any stage is the presence of love. Not a love that is very self-serving, rather a mature love that is more other centered. Again, Paul wrote elegantly of this as well: If I achieve everything that this world has to offer, without love, I gain nothing. He concluded his marvelous treatise on love as follows: When I was a child I used to talk like a child, think like a child, reason like a child. When I became a man I put childish ways aside … There are in the end three things that last: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13).
Each day of our lives, there is something in front of me that promises happiness. More often than not, it includes everything from a laxative to a Cadillac. Sure, there is stuff that can be pleasing and meet needs and desires. But true happiness, well that is something more.
The whole world is searching for happiness – frenetically it seems. St. Paul found the answer and it is offered to us every day.