7th Sunday after Pentecost 27.7.14 Seeking happiness
Christian life is often seen as harder than ordinary life because we have to go to more trouble to be good, and to make proper use of all the things that God places at our disposal.
Undoubtedly the Christian life requires a lot of discipline, but we will always find that any effort we expend in the pursuit of holiness will be worth it.
We, like everyone else, are seeking to be happy. Everyone wants to be happy. It is just a matter of how we go about it. We can try to be happy just for this life alone, or we can aim for eternal happiness.
For this life alone: there are some who live by their instincts, and just seek to grasp every pleasure that comes along, without worrying too much if it is legal or moral. Just do it.
This is simply self-indulgence, leading to spiritual death, as St Paul puts it: the wages of sin are death.
There are other people, more restrained, who manage to keep self-control and discipline in their pursuit of happiness but they stop at only earthly happiness. They have no thought for eternity. These yield bad fruit (Gospel) in the form of wrong thinking, wrong behaviour, and false gods. Anything that does not lead to the one true God is ‘bad fruit’.
We, for our part, aim for eternal happiness, and we direct all our energies to achieve that goal. This does not mean we ignore the things of the world, because part of the process of getting to heaven requires that we handle earthly things well - eg using our resources to help the poor.
It is a delicate business staying on the right side of God’s law, remaining in a state of grace.
It requires that we balance up our use of things, our attitude to people and things, our general attitude to life.
It requires that we keep a long term view of happiness, with our hearts and minds firmly fixed on heaven.
The things of this world are provided for our benefit and to give us a foretaste of much better things in heaven. We can enjoy the things of this world but must not be too attached to them - to the point that they become false gods.
Suppose I am a keen gardener. I make flowers for God's glory. But if I become upset when I win only second prize then I am losing my way.
So we must always remember the spiritual long-term view in all our actions, possessions, habits. We must avoid being addicted to things. We use lightly whatever we have. This is not my whole world. I do this but it is not everything, just a step on the way.
We have to reassess all the time; keep on track or get back on track.
It is easy (as we see from the number who do it) to live as though God does not exist, or does not matter.
If we worry too much about our ambitions, appearance, houses, cars, finances, etc… What has God got to do with it, people ask.
The only ‘good fruit’ is that which leads to eternal life and which moves souls closer to that.
Where will I be in a hundred years from today? This is the question.
We all want to be happy and God wants it too. It is just that He and I have different ideas about how to get there. He is always going to be right but I will be tempted to fight Him every inch of the way.
We make it very hard for ourselves by not accepting the ‘terms and conditions’. It is so much easier if we ‘read the directions’ first!
If we would just look in God’s direction (He creates, saves, offers grace every day) it would be a lot easier but we thrash around and make it worse.
To attain the ultimate prize we must forego lesser delights along the way. This will become easier as we focus more on Heaven, on the God who dwells there.