by Rev. Mark Connolly

I would like to share a few thoughts on one subject that is constantly talked about in all our lives. It is the subject of happiness. Now if you listen to all our nightly television news or radio broadcasts concerning news then you have to conclude that there are an awful lot of unhappy people in this country. Everything we are hearing today by reason of the press, radio and television is all bad news. Many, many years ago, I am going to digress on this subject of happiness, when I was a boy in Boston there used to be on the radio a famous broadcaster. His name was Gabriel Heater. He used to have as one of his themes that there is sad news tonight. Sad news tonight. We would hear this night after night and then he would tell of some place or something reminding us of the bad news that he heard about or the bad news that came into his office.

Today the same broadcasting approaches are being used. Night after night all we are hearing is there is sad news tonight. Let's face it. In this country we might not have all the things that we want, but most of us have the things that we need. If you have good health, good friends and a good attitude then those who are in America are exceptionally blessed compared to other countries and peoples. Just think of the terrible tragedy in Turkey. We are blessed because in this country it is not all bad news. There are people that have an unusual degree of happiness.

The people who have happiness work at it. They are realistic. They know that every day is not going to be the best, that certain days will have their ups and downs, but fundamentally, they are relatively happy. If there is any subject that has been written about over the centuries, from Plato down to the present time, it is the subject of happiness. Any mature person knows that so many of the advertisements of this product or that product are not going to produce what they advertise. That is a form of deception when you basically analyze it. Happiness is an individual quality that you work for. Abraham Lincoln once said you are as happy as you make up your mind to be. So there is no gimmickry, no quick fix, no easy approach to achieving happiness. One thing we have to keep in mind, it comes from within. Happiness is a combination of many things. Happiness is a life long quest and there is no therapy, no drug that has the magic formula for supplying happiness. Yet, we know many people do have an unusual degree and amount of happiness.

How do certain people, having their ups and downs, good days and bad days, tough crosses to carry, how do they still have a degree of happiness that almost causes us to be envious? Most people I have asked, who I know have this kind of happiness, will tell you that there are many ingredients in achieving happiness. But one has to be working every day to make sure that your priorities are clear and understood by you. Without clear priorities you cannot have clear goals. So they single out three priorities: Your relationship with God; Your relationship with others; Your relationship with yourself.

First, your relationship with God. Christ stated it very clearly and gave us clear directions when he said, seek you first the kingdom of God and all other things shall be given unto you. There is no doubt in the mind of Christ as to what our basic priority should be. St. Augustine amplified these words of Christ when he said, you have made us for yourself, oh God, and our hearts will not rest till they rest in you. Billy Graham, the great Protestant evangelist, has a wonderful line where he says, "I don't know what the future holds, but I certainly know who holds the future." The relationship with God for Catholics is intensified through the Eucharist. This is your way of having a personal audience with God. When St. Paul was writing about the Eucharist he told the Christians, when you walk away from that altar rail, you can say it is no longer I who live, but God who lives within me. That source of strength that you get from the Eucharist, that source of direction that you get from the Eucharist, is the guarantee of God that you will have a greater degree of happiness on earth because of your priority to be close to God through the Eucharist.

The second quality in our quest for happiness on this earth centers around our relationship with others. That basically is in being of service to them. I know that this sounds like a generalization. We have all been hurt by being a giver, we have all been hurt by reaching out to people who misunderstood our intentions, we all have been hurt by people who we find out are more takers than givers themselves. But there is really no other way of imitating the life of Christ unless you are a giver. Unless you are a giver you are not going to have the happiness that Christ promises to those who are givers. I say that because of the many people I have met throughout life. There is a spiritual growth, a spiritual expansion that comes into our lives when we are in the habit of being the giver. A great poet talking about service to God said, God when you meet him face to face is not going to be concerned with the medals we have amassed, the degrees or certificates we have gathered, but he will be concerned with scars you wear. Oftentimes, they are the scars worn from showing or offering service to others.

Christ spoke about this when he said, greater love than this no one has than he who lays down his life for a friend. The scars of misunderstanding your good motives, the scars that are the result of a breakdown of communication between friends, all the sorrows willingly endured in the service of another for the sake of Christ and your own spirituality, these are the ingredients that are productive of interior or internal happiness. Service to others for the sake of our own happiness.

George Bernard Shaw once wrote about this when he said, we have no right to consume happiness without producing it than we should consume wealth without producing it.

Another priority that does help us achieve a greater degree of happiness is our relationship with ourselves. If you do not like yourself, if you have low self esteem, if you have the feeling that you don't matter and that you have little self worth, then you have to take literally the directive of Christ when he said, love your neighbor as you love yourself. If you really do not have any love for yourself, how are you going to be of service to your neighbor. How are you going to fulfill the command of Christ to love your neighbor if you don't like or love yourself? You have to remember the following things. You are special in the sight of God. You are very important, there will never be another you. You have a mission that God has directed you to do on this earth that has been assigned to no other. If Jesus Christ died out of love for you on the cross, if Jesus Christ had to come from heaven to earth to die just for you, he would do that just for you because he thinks you are that worthwhile, you are that important.

If you believe this then there is no reason from preventing you from developing and increasing your self esteem or your self worth. In the sight of God you are super special. In the life of Christ you are important. To continually put yourself down, to depreciate yourself, is totally contrary to the love that God has poured into you and that he expects you to give to others. If you want a greater degree of happiness, you have to love yourself. That is a priority that has to become very real in our every day way of living.

Every one knows that there is no simple answer to the quest for happiness. Total happiness is going to be ours in the world beyond this. If you want to have a happier time in this life than you have to develop those three priorities that have been proven over the centuries. Personal relationship with God, a deep sense of service to others and a deeper love for ourselves that helps us to realize that we have talents no other person has been given and we must use them if we want a greater increase of happiness. Happiness is a hard goal to achieve. It gets harder when we expect that it is going to come from something outside ourselves. It is something that comes from within ourselves.

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