One of the first questions in the old Catechism states that I was created to serve God, and thus to be happy here and forever after. My happiness tells me whether I am fulfilling the purpose of my life.
May I ask you the question “Are you happy?”
The answer you give will tell me much about the direction of your life. Many people, especially youth in the west today, are seeking fun and parties to hide their depression. The suicide rate in the world has gone up. Some people told me that they have seen greater joy in the slums of Manila than in the affluence of Malaysia.
When your life goes in the right direction you will be happy. According to the spirituality of St Ignatius (1491-1556), founder of the Jesuits, discernment is based on this principle: some things I do make me sad and depressed, while other things make me happy and joyful.
It is important that we constantly ask ourselves: What do I want? I know many people who, in seeking God’s will, never ask themselves this question because they only care to know what God wants them to do. They do not understand that God speaks to us through the desires of our heart. Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
What do I seek? What is the goal of my life? Where do I want to go?
We all know the story of the prodigal son. He wanted to leave home, asked for his inheritance, and set off squandering all he possessed. The direction he had gone into made him thoroughly unhappy and led him to want to return to his father.
The story of the prodigal son is a beautiful description of our lives. Not that you and I necessarily squander our life in the way the prodigal son did, but we all must admit that we have fallen short of the glory that God intended us to have. Many of us, pursuing the attractions of the world and its empty promises, and lusting for prestige, power, and wealth, are ultimately left with a degree of unhappiness, even sadness and fear of death.
This monthly column intends to help us – you and me – to know what we are seeking and where it is that we are going. I have been made for happiness, so I am going where I can find happiness.
Like the prodigal son, whose experience of sadness made him hungry and thirsty for the love of the father and his return home, we want to live our life with the same attitude “I’m on my way!”, seeking the happiness for which my Father in heaven has created me. St Augustine has expressed this so beautifully in his Confessions when he writes “My heart is restless until it finds its rest in you.”
One of the obstacles in our spiritual growth of happiness and joy, I see, is our excessive focus on sin. When you focus on a little black spot on your shirt or dress, soon the whole shirt or dress will look dirty and filthy. The same with sin, when you and I focus our life on our sins, we feel unholy, judged, unloved by God.
This does not mean that I should ignore my sins. Ignoring sin and not dealing with guilt in the right way only sets us up for sadness and depression. No, I should not ignore sin and guilt. In other articles I hope to explain how to deal with them in our life. For now, it suffices to say that we should put our sins in the right perspective of what Jesus has done for me and you by his death on the cross and his resurrection.
God created us to be happy and came to take away our fear. Fear of death? How many of us fear death?
Those who focus their life on what Jesus did as he took away our sins – past, present and future – when he died for us on the cross, can stare death in the face and say with St Paul “O death, where is your sting?”
This column should help us focus our life on this joy of return to the Father. Our death is not to be a fear in our life but, as St Ambrose tells us, a gift of God to set us free. I have come to understand that we should prepare and train our hearts to face death with joy, for the Lord has created us for himself. In death he gives us the desire of our hearts.
I hope and pray that this column will take away our fear and make us increasingly more joyful and happy as we live our life saying: “I’m on my way to the Father!”