Sunday, December 18, 2011

I'm Happy --- And This Too Is Your Fault!

This Advent has, for me, been one focused on things which disturbed my peace. I’ve seen illness, sadness, confusion, and even death this year. I’ve taken the sad news of our country, our Church, and my friends seriously, as I should. I’ve prayed on these things so much that I worry I might test Our Lord with my cries. Perhaps He thinks on me and says: “You again? You think these things are bad --- wait, then you will see bad.” Or perhaps he hears my moanings and thinks: “Pitiful!” Well, I guess that’d be a better response: Yes Lord, I am pitiful, so pity me and my friends. But I know one thing for sure that The Lord does not think about me: He does not think of me as being sad because of these things, for He reads my heart and knows the great joy that lies therein. Not emotional feelings, mad or sad, but a chosen attitude of joy lies there, in response to His love for me. And I shall not forget His love, especially at this time of year.

I know friends who readily sacrifice for their families, and I know preachers who open my heart to God’s Word and His love. I know people who proclaim the joys in their life to me and others, despite their sorrows. And I know men who have sacrificed their lives for me --- One was even a God. I know people who tell me I bring to them God’s love. And I see children, and the gifts of life. And in my heart, I see God.

I have seen and known all these things, and they do make me happy. They are things you gave me, not any happiness that I obtained on my own. In my heart is an attitude of joy, and these things I see in you and your actions are like Christmas gifts to me. And the more they are a surprise to me, the more happiness I feel.

I was pretty young when I realized that I had obtained a new maturity with my life; I can even recall the Christmas Day on which it happened. A young teen, I think, I had asked my parents for a portable radio for Christmas (I’m not sure I ever believed in Santa Claus). When I opened my gifts that Christmas Day, the radio was there just as I had asked. But this Christmas I wasn’t wildly joyful over the gift, I think in part because I expected to get it. I was happy and I thanked my parents, but then I put this desired gift aside and watched everyone else open their presents.

I remember the great happiness I felt when others expressed their happiness. All right, perhaps I did feel a little more happy when they were happy with my gifts, but in truth all their smiles made me smile, regardless of the gift’s source. That Christmas I really learned the joy of giving and seeing others receive, and I have never lost that deep joy which I found. It was beyond feelings of happiness, mere reactive emotions, but there was a deeper joy, a satisfaction that this was good, very good. And while I enjoyed the smiles of those around me, I enjoyed more when those people gave thanks. The hugs and kisses and tears of joy and thanksgiving brought great joy into my heart. I shall always remember that Christmas, and that first real joy at giving and seeing others give, and receive. And unlike some drug-induced high, I have felt that joy throughout my years over and over again.

Some people have told me that this is a flaw I have, that I don’t appreciate gifts enough. Perhaps it is. I know there is no “thing” which will make me insanely happy, and even things which bring me a level of happiness only do so for a while. My favorite song soon grows old, the pretty sweater I received goes into the drawer, and the toy I desired gathers dust in a corner. Like foods, there are some I prefer more than others, but none I hate and none that highly excite me. But I like to cook, and find a joy when others enjoy my concoctions. Getting stuff is okay, I guess, but …

I find much more happiness --- and real joy --- in giving than receiving, things.

But as I said, I find even a greater joy than with the thing received or given, in the expressions of love shown over gifts received --- whether material gifts, “things,” or spiritual ones. I’m happy over any hug given or received, tears of happiness shed or seen, or on seeing a lone person kneeling in front of God --- unaware that I am watching. Seeing love in action gives me greater joy than any “thing.”

And I so often see that love in you, in how you care for your children, in how you bear up with the illness of your loved one, in how you bear up with me and all my faults, and in how you pray. In your actions I see love, and that brings me great joy.

So I am happy, and yes, it is often your fault. God sent His only Son, to show us how to give, how to hug, how to shed tears, and how to love. But then he died, and then rose to heaven. I read about His actions, but I can’t see them. But I see you. Through you I see His actions in this world. Last year I gave priest friends a beautiful picture book entitled “These Hands Bring You Jesus”. It depicted priestly hands holding the Eucharist. In many ways, you are like those hands to me.

I wrote in recent posts how you and your anger and your sadness and your frustrations can make me mad. But that is you, and you are just a poor excuse of a human being sometimes. I understand. I am too. But often, so often, you don’t just bring me you, you bring me Him. I can see Him in your eyes, and in your actions. I can see His love in you.

And you make me so happy. And as I gaze on Him as I kneel in adoration, I often think of you.


  1. So well writen. Again. Thank you so much for sharing Tom!

  2. Happy New Year, Ginger. I pray that 2012 will be one of zero anxieties for you and your family.