Together with love, happiness is one of those things that we all long for. God created us to love and to be loved. Probably each one of us has personally experienced the huge difference of how we feel when we feel loved to when we feel unloved or rejected. Each of us has also experienced the beautiful experience of loving. I like noticing the faces of a young girl or boy when they first fall in love with someone. There is a real transformation, and the face literally glows. All this makes sense, because God is love, and we are created in God’s image. It is in love, therefore, that we find out who we really are and who we are meant to be.
Happiness goes hand-in-hand with love. God who is love wants us to be happy. While speaking to us about his commandment to love one another, Jesus says that he is telling us “these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete”. Later on in his life, when he was preparing his friends for his upcoming death and resurrection, he told them, “I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” There is no doubt, therefore, that joy, or happiness, is God’s dream for us.
It is no wonder, therefore, that we find it natural to seek both love and happiness. The problem is not the search itself, but where do I look for such things. I might be looking for the right thing in the wrong place!
St Augustine was a person who had a first-hand experience of this. In his search, he had tried everything: he had a good circle of friends, he travelled, he tried following different philosophies, he had a girlfriend with whom he fathered a child. Yet, none of this gave him that “complete” joy which he was looking for. This he only found when he finally allowed himself to meet God in his life – after many years of trial and error! Perhaps one of the most beautiful prayers ever written is the one written by Augustine the moment he discovered God in his life. In it, we feel that he almost regrets the years he wasted searching for what he was looking for in the wrong place. It begins like this:
“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you”.
This takes us back to our question: where do I look for happiness? Today’s liturgy helps us to stay on the right track. “Happy the one who has placed his trust in the Lord”, we pray together in the responsorial psalm, while the first reading and the gospel use some very strong language. The prophet Jeremiah says that the one who puts his trust in man is “cursed”. Perhaps he is speaking from some sour personal experience! He who puts his trust in the Lord is, on the other hand, blessed. Similarly in the gospel, Jesus feels sorry for those who rely on richness, worldly happiness, or reputation for their happiness. These things, we all know, can be very fragile, fleeting, and non-fulfilling. On the other hand, he says that happy are they whose focus is on God, rather than on worldly things.
Let us take a few moments during this week to reflect on our lives. Where do I look for my happiness? Have I really found it? Have I ever sincerely tried to put God before everything else? What was the result?