Monday, July 1, 2013

Be Holy, Be Happy

Are you more drawn to "be holy," or to "be happy"?   Maybe it's just me, but it seems easier to talk about "being happy" than about "being holy."  The universal call to holiness, which has echoed from Christ himself through the Church's preaching of the Gospel down through the centuries, was particularly reinforced by the Second Vatican Council some 50 years ago.  And yet some kind of false modesty keeps us off the path of holiness.

It's so easy to lift the saints up on a pedestal, and then reassure ourselves that they were somehow more precious in God's eyes than we are.  Somehow it's comforting to remind ourselves that "no one's perfect," and yet we shy away from asking the Lord's help in making us perfectly who he wants us to be.  But what if the title above--July's theme for the Diocese of Joliet's ongoing celebration of the Year of Faith--suggests that there's an inextricable link between holiness and happiness?  In other words, what if being holy is the only path to true happiness?

To be holy is to be fully alive.  Perhaps we have a more immediate experience of the converse: To be un-holy brings pain and misery to ourselves (and others!).  Sin fails to deliver on its false promises of power, pleasure and prestige, and we find ourselves less than fully alive--always seeking another "hit" of whatever false god we're bowing to.  So to be holy is to die to sin; it is to live with and in and through Christ.  To be holy is to embrace the path of ongoing conversion of heart, which alone will help us "enter through the narrow gate" (Mt 7:12). 

During the month of July, the Church's Sunday liturgies lift up consecutive passages from Luke's Gospel, in order to illuminate the path of daily discipleship and authentic human freedom:

  • The Sending of the Seventy-Two (Lk 10:1-12; 17-20):  Holiness and happiness are meant to be shared not hoarded.  Jesus sends his newly formed disciples out "like lambs among wolves," just as he's been sent by the Father.  All baptized disciples are called to look for those with peaceful hearts and to announce that "The kingdom of God is at hand for you."  Doesn't it make us happy to share Good News?

  • The Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37): Holiness and happiness are tied to extravagant love of God and neighbor.  This towering teaching reveals what it means to be a neighbor to those in need--what it means to live the kingdom of God here and now.  Jesus asks the scholar of the law, "'Which of these, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers' victim?'  He answered, 'The one who treated him with mercy."  Isn't it helpful to hear such a clear and concise command, directed to each of us--"Go and do likewise"?

  • Martha and Mary (Lk 10:38-42):  Holiness and happiness require that we welcome Jesus into our lives and then realize that "there is need of only one thing."  The word of God spoken by the Word made flesh can alone enable us to serve rightly and to avoid being "anxious and worried about many things."  Isn't it nice to be reminded that "doing" is secondary and that "being" with the Lord should be our primary concern? 

  • The Lord's Prayer and Our Prayer (Lk 11:1-13):  Holiness and happiness require that we enter into the mysterious life of the Blessed Trinity.  Jesus shares the personal prayer of his own heart so that we might love his Father with, in and through him.  He calls us to persistence--"everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened."  And he guarantees that the Father will "give the holy Spirit to those who ask him."  How can we not be holy and be happy with such supernatural support?
Being holy is living in right relationship with the Lord.  Being happy is living in communion with God and our fellow brothers and sisters.  "Be Holy, Be Happy" calls us to look out for our neighbors who are in crisis, to be nourished by listening to the gracious words which Christ speaks, and to know that we will find everything we need for the journey.

Of course, we can neither make ourselves holy nor make ourselves happy.  This is a gift which is offered, a hidden treasure which we need to receive with humility and gratitude.  So let's joyfully share "the reason for the hope that is within us" (1 Pet 3:15), as we continue our journey home!