9 ways to be Happy

A quick glance at the magazine covers at the grocery store or a couple minutes scrolling through social media and you will see a lot of people who promise to make you happy. Whether it is by eating the right food, working out in the right way, having the best sex, doing the best hobby, believing the right things, or even just by buying the right magazine, the headlines or clickbait all promise happiness. 

Whether we want to admit it or not most of our human behavior is guided by a desire to be happy. Why do we cut our hair this way or that way? Because we think it will make us happy. Why do we get married to the person we marry? We think it will make us happy. Small things or big things, we often choose them because of our innate desire for happiness. 

This isn’t necessarily bad. God made us to desire happiness. The thing is that we can’t and won’t find true, lasting, real happiness here on earth. C. S. Lewis said it this way, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” 

When Jesus preaches on the mountain top, he does the same thing that the supermarket magazines do, “If you want to me happy….” (What? The Savior of mankind can’t be good at marketing?)

Yes the beatitudes we read about this Sunday are a list of “if you want to be happy…” statements. The word translated as “Blessed” is Beatiudo, which is where we get name beatitudes. Ultimately, Jesus are saying, those who are __________ are happy, fortunate, or content.

What’s puzzling about Jesus’ preaching is that the things he promises will make us happy don’t seem very attractive. If you asked one of your kids how they were doing and they said, “Well I’m feeling pretty poor in spirit, sad, and meek. I wish the world was better than it is. I want to be merciful and have a clean heart and to be a peacemaker. I’m being bullied at school because I want to do the right thing and you should hear the things people say about me.” We wouldn’t instantly think that our kids are happy. Right?

Understanding what Jesus means by “happy” can help put together this puzzle. The original word in Greek that Jesus uses here is makarios which means good fortunate, happy, blessed. Jesus didn’t use eftihismenon which means blissful, feeling good. Jesus doesn’t promise pleasant feelings, but promises goodness. The things that will make us good and put us in a fortunate situation might not bring us blissful feelings. 

Another way to answer the seeming dissonance between happiness and suffering is that God’s goal for us often isn’t the same goal we seek when we want to be happy. If we seek happiness we will likely be left unsatisfied because we are bad at knowing what will make us happy and often follow the path of least resistance instead of the path to happiness. 

Jesus’ promise of happiness is actually a promise of goodness, beauty, and truth. In other words, if you are close to God, you will be happy. If you know God and God knows you, you will be happy. Happy is the one who has an intimate, lived relationship with Jesus Christ. 

LIVE IT: Make 2 lists. List 1 is all the things that make you momentarily, emotionally happy. List 2 are all the things that are good, beautiful, and true in your life. When you pray, pull out each list and thank God for each thing on each list one by one.

Who you calling “meek”?

January 29th Sunday Readings.

Have you ever been in a place where you had to follow rules you weren’t used to? After spending elementary school at the public school in my neighborhood, my parent and I decided I would attend Chaminade College Prepatory School, an all-boys Catholic school. As you can imagine there were a lot of things to get used to, but one of the most shallow and yet significant was the dress code.

We didn’t have uniforms, but our dress code was no joke. Kahkis, dress shoes, collard shirt, belt, all clean and free of tears, cuts, or frays. There was more to the code,business-casual-evolution.jpgbut the one rule that I struggled with most was that shirts must be tucked in at all time. It wasn’t like I didn’t try to tuck my shirt in, I just didn’t pay attention to it. I didn’t pay attention that was until Mr. Bayshore would catch me walking down the hall with my shirt out. “MR. KOSTELC! What leads you to believe that you are not subject to the same dress code as the rest of your cohorts? Do you need an hour detention to be reminded?” No, I did not.

This Sunday we hear the familiar gospel story of Jesus going up the mountain and preaching the beatitudes to the crowds. When I hear the beatitudes instantly my mind identifies the beatitude that is most difficult for me to embrace. Who wants to be meek or in poor spirit or persecuted? Yet Jesus’ central message is that in the midst of hardship, we can and will be happy. How?

Jesus is promising that in the midst of true and deep struggle we can be filled with a profound and lasting joy that isn’t subject to our circumstance. Jesus suggests something radical – our joy isn’t dependent on the moment, but on our lived relationship with God. If God is the source of our joy and God is unchanging, unwavering, and forever for us, then our joy can outshine any moment of struggle.

If you’ve been struggling lately, if you’ve felt tire or overwhelmed, if you wish for things to be made right in our world, this Sunday’s gospel is an invitation to find true happiness and everlasting joy in a lived relationship with Jesus Christ.

LIVE IT:
Read Matthew 5:1-12. Think about which of the Beatitudes would be hardest for you to accept. Ask God to help you grow in joy.

Black Friday vs. Happiness

The Good Word for Nov. 1st ~ for the complete Sunday readings click here.

Black Friday has become kind of a big deal. If Thanksgiving is a day to celebrate the good gifts in our life, Black Friday has become the day to buy ourselves more and more and more good gifts. People spend a lot of money on Black Friday. Which is why hearing that a store has decided to forgo the Black Friday money rush and instead close and then still pay their employees comes as a bit of a shock. REI, which is an outdoor gear co-op, has decided to closeOutdoors all 143 of its stores, but still pay their employees. What are they paying their employees to do? Go outside.

Their rational is that they have always been a company that is about getting people outdoors. With that goal in mind they are inviting their employees, and whoever wants to join, to head outside on Black Friday instead of spending the day shopping. Obviously REI wants to make money. They sell goods and services. But they have decided there is something more central to who they are and what they are about.

The readings this week point to a similar reality. Sunday is All Saints Day when we celebrate those who have examples of obedient discipleship of Jesus Christ. The gospel is the Beatitudes, which Jesus preached during the Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew’s gospel.

Each beatitude starts with the phrase “Blessed are the…” This “blessed” can be translated as deeply, perfectly, or supernaturally happy. Not pleasure or minor good feelings, but true lasting happiness.

Who gets this deeper level of foundational joy? Those who abandon minor goods for still greater things. The Saints sacrificed money, control, security, and even sometimes their lives, to receive an even great joy – life with God forever.

Just as REI is sacrificing some profits in order to stay true to their identity, when we, the Sons and Daughters of God, sacrifice some minor convenience for the greater glory of God, we too are staying true to our identity.

What would you be willing to sacrifice to follow Jesus Christ? Last week Bartimeaus gave up his security and source of financial income. This week the Saints give up their control, popularity, or even their lives. What is deep, beautiful, and profound joy, found in following Jesus, worth to you?

Live It:
Throw off your cloak. Just for 3 days this week, give up something that makes you feel secure and replace it with something that brings you closer to Jesus. (Example: instead of checking email/social media first thing in the morning, start your day by saying the Our Father or another prayer of your choosing).