Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Happy New Year!!!
The life of Jesus begins with Mary. Therefore, it is appropriate that we begin the New Year with a Feast of Mary, the Mother of God. Since Mary is the Mother of God she is the Mother of joy, joy to the world. So the traditional greeting on this first day of the New Year is one of joy: Happy New Year!
Happy New Year! How many times did you hear that today? How many times did you give that same greeting to others? Was it just a conventional greeting or was it a real wish? In other words is it really possible to find happiness in the New Year? We all want to be happy. The question is how long you do you want to be happy?
If you just want to be happy for a little while, eat an ice-cream.
If you want to be happy for an hour, take a nap.
If you want to be happy for two hours, have great meal or a party.
If you want to be happy for a whole day, go for shopping and a movie.
If you want to be happy for a week, take a break and go fishing.
If you want to be happy for a month, take a long vacation and go down south to a warmer place.
If you want to be happy for a year, inherit a fortune or hit a billion dollar lottery.
If you want to be happy forever, turn to God for he wants you to be happy always and every time, not only here but also in eternity. It would be a mistake, of course, to expect perfect happiness this year or any year in this life. This desire for perfect happiness can only be satisfied in the next life. As St. Augustine said, “Lord, you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” But there is a deep, lasting peace that everyone can have in this life.
It would also be a mistake to identify happiness with pleasure. Pleasure and happiness are not synonyms. They are not one and the same thing. The world distracts and confuses you with pleasure. Our culture says pleasure and happiness are the same but it is a lie. Pleasure is good and beautiful and in the right context God wants us to experience much pleasure in this life. But pleasure is not happiness. What is the difference between pleasure and happiness? Pleasure can’t be sustained beyond the activity producing it. For example, if you like ice cream you gain pleasure eating ice cream. Stop eating the ice cream and the pleasure stops. Studies say seventy-five percent of our eating is not because we are hungry but for pleasure. Pleasure can’t be sustained beyond the activity producing it.
It would be a mistake also to think that happiness consists in amassing possessions. If things could make people happy, Americans would be the happiest people in the world. We have more things than any other generation. Unfortunately we begin by possessing things and end up with things possessing us. It is the desire, the craving for things we do not have, which causes so much unhappiness. We are supposed to love people and use things. In our affluent society we turn that around and love things and use people to get the things we love. It would be a mistake also to think that we can find happiness by seeking it. This is the great American pursuit, the “Great American Dream.” The Declaration of Independence guarantees every American the “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Let us look at some people who are really happy.
Let us go to Bethlehem to see who it is. Look into the cave. Take your eyes away from the beautiful babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in the manger and look around. There is none of those things in which we seek happiness. There is no riches, no fame, no power, no conveniences, no pleasure, nothing but an empty, cold cave on the outskirts of town. Now look at Mary and Joseph kneeling before the manger. They must be tired. They have traveled 75 miles or so from Nazareth to Bethlehem on foot and on the jolting back of a donkey. They must be very hungry. They haven’t had a real meal since they left Nazareth some 3 days ago. They must be cold in this damp cave in the midst of winter. It must have been very humiliating for them to discover no room among their relatives in their ancestral home or at the Village Inn. Yet in the midst of all of this, Mary and Joseph are the happiest people to walk the face of this earth. Here in Bethlehem they are teaching us the amazing paradox that it is only when we lose ourselves in the love and service of Jesus do we find happiness. Happiness that this world can never give and no one can take from us. But how can we lose ourselves in the love and service of Jesus? Jesus has made it very simple, “Whatever you do for one of these least brethren you do for me.”
So on this first day of the New Year let us ask for the grace to know Jesus more intimately, love him more ardently and follow him more closely so that this may be a truly Happy New Year!
God Bless You,