I wonder how many remember the Art Linkletter television show, a regular feature of which was an interview with children. Occasionally, the host would ask one of the children to tell him the meaning of happiness. As you might suppose, that question generated some interesting answers. One little girl said: “Happiness is finding a bug and getting to keep it”.
If we were to take a poll of our parish, we would probably come up with about as many definitions of happiness as there are people. But there is at least one point on which we could all agree, and that is that virtually everyone wants to be happy. No healthy minded person wants to spend his or her days in gloom and boredom and sadness.
Jesus, as we know, was well aware of this universal longing of the human heart and spent a good bit of his time trying teach men and women the way of happiness. Remember that on the night before He died, Jesus said to His Disciples: “All this I tell you that my joy may be yours and that your joy may be complete”.
That statement, taken in context, is truly a remarkable thing. Here was a young a man who was about to die and knew it. Tomorrow He would be crucified. His earthly life was almost at an end, and yet He was talking with some of His friends about the joy of living.
Perhaps to some that might seem an almost incredible thing, because many tend to think of happiness in terms of favorable conditions. Our sense of well-being for the most part, is contingent upon circumstances – the things that happen to us. If fortune would smile upon us, we would be happy. If only our luck would change, we could be happy. If we could get a better job, if we could live in a better house, if we could get married, if we could remain unmarried – we externalize the search for happiness and place our joy at the mercy of circumstance.
Although the things that happen to us are not unimportant, yet neither are they all important. Our sense of well-being is not entirely at the mercy of unpredictable and uncontrollable events. Certainly, the joy of Jesus was not. Throughout His entire life He had few if any of the things that we value so highly. Instead, it all had to do with something on the inside. In our Lord’s view of this matter, happiness was about ten percent circumstance and ninety percent character.
The quality of our lives is not entirely determined by the things that happen; of far greater importance is our response to, our attitude toward those things. For example, here are two persons who are told by their doctor that they have only a few months to live. Both of them are confronted by the same fact. But while the first person collapses in bitterness, the second man rises to courage and faith. We have seen it happen. One man laments the futility of it all. The other man makes those final months the most memorable and influential of his life.
The difference between these two men is in their interpretation of the facts of life. And if we dig deep enough we will probably find that difference is Jesus. One man is living in Jesus; the other is not.
In these days we ought to thank God for our Catholic faith. We desperately need it if our lives in this generation are to count for something good. Will power and determination are not enough. It was not enough for Jesus. He saw life at its worst and rose above it, transformed it. Glorified it. His deep convictions about God and life’s eternal meaning saw Him through. So if we too abide in Jesus and He abides in us, we will produce abundantly.
So remember that the power of Jesus is greater than ourselves and that will enable us to make life count for something good. That power is always available. Will you seek it and use it in your own lives?