Friday, December 27, 2013

Who is the Happy Person?

Goals and values in life are frequently different for each of us but beneath the goals and values is the same search for happiness, a desire that is inscribed in our human nature, says a seminary professor writing in the With Bible magazine.

By this desire for happiness, he believes we are showing our love for the world. Even though we experience quarreling, violence, oppression, pain, and  sickness, we  still love the world. What needs to be done, the professor says, is to distinguish between loving the world and being conditioned, manipulated by the world. Since we were born in the world, we have both the duty and the right to love the world. With this understanding, we have to define what we mean by happiness. Some think happiness comes from possessing material goods and honors; some think it comes from sharing.

Which is it? he asks his readers. There are workers who believe that a good, well-paying job will bring them happiness. And there are students who think that happiness comes with getting into their school of choice, and for untold numbers of people who struggle with a difficult situation, solving the difficulty would bring happiness to them. The understanding of happiness is different for each of us.

There is another face, he says, to the world we love: the fear that surrounds our knowing that it will come to an end for us. The Scriptures speak of the transiency of life: "All mankind is grass, and all their glory like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower wilts, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it" (Isa 40:6-7).

Whether we acknowledge it or not,  we are going forward daily toward death. As the psalm says: "A short span you have made my days, and my life is as naught before you; only  a breath is any human existence"( Ps 39:6). Although life on this earth is short, it does not prevent us from constantly looking for happiness during our short stay here.

So what is happiness in this situation? What do we need to do to find happiness?  The answer can be found, he says, in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter five to seven, but especially in the fifth chapter, containing the Beatitudes.  The sermon on the mount was from ancient times considered the center piece of the New Testament,  and the main point of Christ's teachings. St. Augustine said that in the sermon of the mount we can find the pattern of Jesus' life, and the complete teaching on the commandments.

Beginning with the eight steps for entering God's kingdom, we are shown the way to form ourselves in the image of Jesus. We are taught how to grow closer to God and to possess him. Before Augustine, St. Irenaeus said,  "Humans are on earth to enjoy God, to feel, love and possess him."  Another way to express this is to say we are on earth to discover Jesus, to live according to his word, to appreciate  and enjoy him. By doing this we will come to the fullest understanding of what is meant by finding happiness in our lives.

Granted that we all want happiness, what is the difference between wanting happiness and being happy? When  I say  I am happy at this moment, I am truly  happy.  When I  say I  want to be happy we are either less happy or unhappy and searching for happiness. So who is the happy person?

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