Bottom line: We have a duty of happiness. It's part of putting away the old self and putting on the new self - which is your true self.
As you know, this summer I am doing a homily series on gratitude. It coincides with my fiftieth anniversary of priesthood. For that I am grateful to God and to you.
We began with things we take for granted like hands and eyes and feet. We saw gratitude for the gifts of fatherhood, children and country. We also explored how we can be grateful in the midst of affliction - even terrible afflictions like depression and conflict. Last weekend we saw the gift of free choice. We are more than the result of some random evolutionary process. We have that divine spark, our souls created in God's image with the power to freely choose. We can choose, for example, to smile.
Well, this Sunday I want to take it a step further. We can choose happiness. This is part of what St. Paul means when he says: "you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God's way in righteousness and holiness of truth."
Our deceitful desires make us unhappy. For example, I might envy Bishop Tyson. Why did Pope Benedict choose him as bishop of Yakima and not me. That's the old self speaking. The new self says I am exactly where God wants me to be. In fact, I cannot think of a better place than St. Mary of the Valley. Sincerely, these past twelve years have been the best years of my life. Jesus saves the best wine till the end.
As your pastor I have duties - to administer the sacraments and preach the Gospel. One of the most important duties is the duty of happiness.
How can happiness be a duty? Well, one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child is happiness. I know children who hurt because dad always seems angry and sad. Likewise, parents suffer when a child never seems happy or grateful.
Now, I know some people are born with a little cloud over their head - and it stays with them all their lives. God has a special purpose for them as we will see in our final homily. These gloomy souls do not negate the duty to happiness. I know this is not easy for any of us.
Still, Paul tells us to put on a the new self. We have a choice. Did you notice last week when we talked about the secret of a smile. The very act of smiling brings happiness. To put on Christ means to think and act like him - or at least try. And when we stumble, let him pick you up.
We need to recognize that happiness has different levels. The lowest level is sensual pleasure which passes very quickly. The highest is transcendence: the desire for the true, the good and the beautiful, which is ultimately the desire for God - the union with God that Jesus opens up for us. Again, more in the final homily. Meanwhile I put in the bulletin more about the levels of happiness.
A person who walks with Jesus can find happiness by being grateful in all circumstances. C.S. Lewis wrote: "We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is good, because it is good; if bad, because it works in us patience, humility, contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country."
We can see this gratitude in the life of Mother Teresa. In 1984 I had the chance to meet her. I was part of an international group of priests making a retreat in Rome. Mother Teresa spoke to us. She radiated joy and happiness. I was shocked when after her death, news came out about the terrible darkness she suffered. Dr. Keriaty and Fr. Cihak talk about this in Catholic Guide to Depression. They write about the difference between dark night of the soul and clinical depression. It's worth reading.
Next week our Scripture readings lay out a two-step strategy for living a life of gratitude - which is the key to happiness. It's the second to the last homily in our ten-part series of gratitude.
Today take home this: We have a duty of happiness. It's part of putting away the old self and putting on the new self - which is your true self. Amen.
Spanish Version (Word document)
From Archives (18th Ordinary Sunday - Year B):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Kurt Nagel
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru