Monday, February 18, 2013

Why Can't I Make Myself Happy?

“The wicked are snared in the work of their own hands.    (Ps 9:16)
Like in Babel and Sodom, focused on things of earth, of their hands,
they seek to make their happiness, when it has existed from all time.

I often find solace in my daily readings of the Psalms.  And sometimes I underline words or write my own commentary in my Liturgy of the Hours prayer book, like the words above.  And each year as I read them again, I am reminded of the insights the Spirit has given to me.
The Lenten season is typically focused on sin and penance, and the results of sin --- The Cross.  The wages of sin are death.  I do remember those things, especially during Lent, and sometimes reflect upon them here.  But there is another side to Lent which must not be forgotten, the blessings which come out of sufferings and sacrifice.  Easter followed Good Friday, and goodness came from suffering.  Suffering can result in goodness, often a goodness we don’t understand.  We don’t reflect nearly enough on that, that suffering is a good and necessary part of life, not just an evil to be avoided.  And to avoid suffering (or take our mind off of it), so many of us are deeply focused these days on making ourselves happy; for many, it is THE focus of their lives.  They seek to make their (own) happiness.
But our happiness was created for us, and has existed from all time.  It was and is a gift.  It is not for us to create it.
I read that little reflection (above) in my prayer book this morning.  Again, it hit home, especially in relation to the confession I made this morning.  After mass, I asked the saintly priest (or at least one WAAYYY holier than me) who was visiting the parish if he would hear my confession, to which he quickly assented.  After hearing my confession we talked for quite a while.  He told me about his own Sunday homily, which he had delivered in another church yesterday. 
He said yesterday is often called “Temptation Sunday,” for the gospel is about when Jesus was tempted in the desert.  “And so I sat down to write my sermon, intending to write about how temptation so easily sneaks into our lives.  I began my work with a prayer to know God’s will on what I should say --- and then I felt as if I were hearing Him say:  ‘No, that’s not what I want you to speak upon.  Even before temptation ever existed, there was good.  I created everything good.’”  And so the priest explained to me how he came to write a sermon on God’s blessings, on Temptation Sunday. 
Perhaps taking an excerpt from that sermon, he proceeded to talk to me about sin, temptation, and blessings.  “We often focus too much on sin,” he said.  Like driving a car down a smooth highway, we notice the potholes, and perhaps one might even cause serious damage to our car --- but the highway is a great blessing in our life.  It gets us to where we are going.  And, in the Catholic Church, there is Confession, a patch for any potholes, to smooth our way again.  “No,” he said, “Focus on the blessings in your life; they are God’s love for you.  They will get you to eternal life.”  He didn’t say it, but no one gets to heaven because there is Confession, they get to heaven because of God’s love and mercy.
That should be our focus during Lent.  That will bring us eternal happiness.  And that is not something we can achieve by ourselves. 


  1. Thank you Tom, I needed to hear this today! What a wonderful priest who took that time to speak with you like that. Thank you for sharing it here. Our faith is such a beautiful gift and blessing in itself and too often I focus on what I'm not doing within it, instead of the good that's being done or that I already have. Wishing you a blessed Lent!

  2. And thank you ladies for taking the time to care also. While we may often not be aware of our blessings, we also are often not aware of the blessings we give. Today is not one of my better days, and a comment from you is like a smile. Some days, a smile helps even me, to not be anxious.