Spiritual Life: March 2012 Archives
In case you didn't know it, there are levels of happiness. You also may not know that God wants us to be happy in this life. Period. Can we open our eyes to what true happiness is?
Four levels of happiness that we encounter in our experience:
- happiness in a thing: I need a steak and a bourbon; I need that vacation
- problem: short-termed pleasure: the flashy new toy
- we are created more than a designer purse:
- who's measure do we use for happiness?
- what do we really ask God for?
2. as persons we are more than comparative advantage, but we compare ourselves with others
a. problem: the "advantage" has a limitation; it's effectiveness is not long-lasting nor does it account for the truth of who we really are as persons made in God's own image
3. finding joy in a sincere gift of self ... to a point
- problem: when the person to whom our joy is directed leaves, then what happens? Was our serving really sincere? What are the motivations in looking for joy in serving?
- we are restless until our hearts rest in the Lord
- God thirsts for you to thirst for Him
- what does it do to God when we thirst for a designer purse more than for God?
- why does a created thing take the priority over the creator?
We are meant, by God, to be happy in this life and in the next. You may be asking yourself: What are the requirements for attaining true happiness?
The saints (Augustine, Benedict, Dominic, Francis, Ignatius and Philip Neri) remind us of something crucial in the spiritual life, indeed, our life right now: we need to exercise the virtue of gratitude because of our dependence on God. Gratitude reminds that we are in need of grace but also to give of ourselves to another. Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches that gratitude is closely connected to the cardinal virtue of justice, by which we give what is due to others. But with gratitude there is actually a holy exchange between two people. One person benefits from a good act of another but also wants to repay the benefaction. Rahner spoke of giving alms at Mass as a way of being involved in the good works of the Church when giving personal time is not possible but no less important because while there is some sort of a bond among the pastor, the benefactor and beneficiary it is only made stronger because real faces are behind the dollar. Think of the times when we write a thank you note, make a promise of a deeper connection in friendship, or even the promise spiritual works of mercy. I frequently write, "know that you are in my prayers" to remind me and the person I am writing that I may not be able to give something material in return, but I can make a sacrifice of gratitude before God on behalf of another because of friendship. Gratitude and justice is rooted in charity, in love for another, because of the Other. I think of Blessed John Paul II's insistence that we ought to make "a sincere gift of self."
Saint Ignatius tells us that to be ungrateful is a sin. Imagine if we account for acts of ingratitude in our daily examination of conscience even in Confession. How is it that today I can make a sincere gift of myself? Lent is a time to recall the concrete times we've been grateful and made a promise to pray for another.