Life is better when you are happy. But life is best when other people are happy because of you!
I suppose I better say something about Vocations, as it is Vocations Sunday, today. Here it is: we all have one, a VOCATION, that is!
Instead of boring theological terms, let me borrow a phrase that ran across my WhatsApp the other day: “Life is better when you are happy. But life is best when other people are happy because of you!” Whether we choose the single life, married life or Religious life, our goal is the same: to act in a way, in every circumstance, that will help other people be happy.
Our vocation, is simply the framework in which God calls us to do that.
In married life (the most popular vocation chosen), there are no happy spouses unless they decide to do things that assist, inspire, provide for, or help promote happiness in the other.
In single life, also, the happiest single people I know are often doing things that bring happiness to other people. And the same with a Religious vocation: the only really happy religious and priests I know are the same-same people who are always available for the needs of others, willing to make little (and big) sacrifices, ready to go the extra mile.
Certainly that’s what brings joy into my life, and I sincerely recommend it to others who want to find deep inner peace & joy. The peace that allows us to think: I don’t know where I’m going, but I know I’m on the right road! Then, it’s no longer important that people say thank you, although many do: it’s the joy of seeing other people happy = the best “drug” we can find.
Whether you are naughty, if you help others to be happy, then Jesus Christ will be welcoming you with wide open arms… you just need to do it more than once a year, or once a month!! Try it daily and your life will never be boring or lack vision.
I encourage people to think about religious life, as opposed to a Diocesan Priestly life. The Religious Life is a little bit closer to married life, but with many exceptions and escape clauses, as one married person said: you get a change of scenery every 6 years, but mine stays the same!
However, Religious life does have many common challenges: you cannot last the distance unless you are willing to forgive quickly and start again; to be generous in actions and praise of our other religious members. These actions and words also continuously transform us.
Ultimately we all want to be happy and, more precisely, JOYFUL: in the Christian FAITH, we call that Heaven. Let’s distinguish between happiness (felt more in the head = short term), while Joy comes from heart: long lasting positive feelings despite ongoing hardships.
A case in point: many mothers struggle every day to care for the family, but have a constant positivity as they watch the children – and sometimes the husband – excel and be happy.
So, you might be wondering how do we enter into that idea of Heaven before we die on earth? When we stand back and look at the three readings, in general, three things jumped out at me:
1. The FREEDOM of living in Heaven = trust & obedience to Christ’s way of life (Gospel).
And to get there, we just need two key things (the rest follows from them):
2. Honesty about our sins: our sins matter much less than our ability to be HONEST (1st Read).
3. PERSEVERANCE in our faithful obedience to the life Christ modelled for us (2nd Reading).
I am always disarmed by children when they come for confession: their honesty can run something like this: “I pulled my sister’s hair” – but it’s said with a big grin on his face. He knows it’s wrong, and is happy to say so, but he also enjoyed it!
I believe God is much more satisfied with that small boy’s confession than my own laboured confessions trying to reduce the gravity my sins by too many explanations.
All of us have (or will) experience being hurt by a friend/ family member. But as soon as they admit wrong-doing and apologise we feel much happier with them.
It’s challenging that St Paul’s letter was initially addressed to an audience whose majority were slaves, and often mistreated by their “masters”. But Paul encourages us to be faithful and not respond with anger, despite our hurt feelings: that’s the perseverance we need.
St Paul’s letter also reminds me of an Oblate captured by terrorists in the Southern Philippines: initially he was angry, but after two days made a decision to serve the terrorists: cooking nice meals, washing up dishes, etc. After a week of this the terrorists started asking him questions and began treating him more like an honoured guest, rather than a hated enemy.
The death & Resurrection of Jesus teaches us what sort of a shepherd Jesus Christ really is: someone who has made us free and beautiful again. I believe each of us do the same when we help others to be happy. Happy Easter!
By Gerard Conlan, OMI