Sunday, February 2, 2014

Does God want us to be happy? a seminary professor, in his article in the magazine Bible & Life, is asking his readers. The obvious answer, he says, is yes, otherwise he would not have created us. In the first pages of Genesis it is clear that the first parents were happy. They were living with God intimately without embarrassment, talking and listening to him. Happiness, says the professor, is living in the same way the first humans lived, and were meant to live. 

What makes a person happy? he asks. St. Augustine says it is by possessing what a person desires. What is it that we need to desire? is the question that then needs to be asked, according to the professor, and it will always include, he says, a search for the good. When someone causes me pain and I wish that he would disappear from the earth, and the wish is realized, we will discover that the joy we have is short lived, for it was not for a good cause. No one who does not have what he wants can be happy, he says, and not everyone who has what he wants is happy. And those who have gotten what they have in an immoral way are, he believes, ultimately bound to be unhappy.

What Augustine is telling us, says the professor, is that what we possess must not have the possibility of being lost. If the possession we have depends on circumstances or fortune and not on something permanent, there will always be uncertainty and fear of having it being taken away, which will then bring unhappiness into our lives.

Material goods, power, honors and the like can disappear without our approval, which means they can't be the goal that will bring us happiness. Only what is permanent can satisfy our longing for happiness; it has to be a goal that can't be taken away from us. He then draws our attention to a case where wanting to get what you ought not to get is more harmful than not getting what you do want. "Wickedness of will brings to everyone greater evil than good fortune brings good."

A happy person is the person who can enjoy the truth, and God being the ultimate truth is the truth we need to possess and enjoy in our lives, says Augustine. It is this enjoyment of God that gives us happiness. God satisfies our thirst for the truth. In our continuing search for the fullness of that desire for the truth, we are already enjoying, in some way, truth and happiness.
We hear often that we become what we love.When the love is noble we grow, when it is ignoble we descend into its baseness. "What we love and who we love shapes what we become," St. Clare of Assisi has said. "If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. This means we are to become vessels of God's compassionate love for others." Love unites us with God and the closer we are able to approach him in this life the happier we will be.

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