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 than that of a teenager or an adult? How about the response of an 80 year old person – would it be very different than 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 was 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, the reflections around the feast of St. Paul (January 25) suggest that after Paul’s conversion, his whole life became one of service to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That 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 totally 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 concludes 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 us 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. Yet, the whole world is searching for happiness – frenetically it seems. And St. Paul found the answer in Christ who offers Himself to us every day.
The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
On this feast of the Presentation, the Gospel of Luke gives us a lovely scene on which to reflect. Mary and Joseph bring the child Jesus to the Temple to present him to the Lord. In the Temple, both Simeon and Anna, elders in the Temple, recognized Jesus as the Messiah, and gave witness to his presence.
We come to Mass each week and receive Jesus Christ in Holy Communion. As we go forth from Mass today, we too give witness to Christ.
Let us pray that in all we say and do, Christ will be visibly present in our lives