A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

"I deserve to be happy"

This is the guiding principle for many people in the world today, whether they admit it or not.

It is not only wrong, it is dangerous and the cause of much of the world’s unhappiness.

People forsake their commitments – cheat on their spouses, get divorced, desert their families, leave the ministry, or quit public service – because “I deserve to be happy.”

People drink alcohol, smoke, take drugs, and/or engage in debauchery because “I deserve to be happy.”

People accumulate money and resources for themselves and ignore the desperate needs of others because “I deserve to be happy.”

People even kill themselves because “I deserve to be happy.”

This misguided sense of entitlement is dangerous indeed.

In today’s Gospel (Luke 17:7-10) our Lord warns us not to think in terms of entitlement, but rather in terms of duty.

So likewise ye,
when ye shall have done
all those things which are commanded you,
say, We are unprofitable servants:
we have done that which was our duty to do.

Today’s Gospel reminds us that we do not have entitlement - we have duty: duty to God and duty to others, for these are the things that each of us – rich or poor - have been commanded to do.

This is not a popular idea in a world that lives by the mantra “I deserve to be happy.”

In fact, when Christians speak against the headlong hedonism of this world, they are accused of perversely opposing happiness and encouraging misery.

Nothing could be further from the truth: Christians are totally focused on happiness. God wants us to be happy.

We have to remember, of course, that happiness consists in attaining the good.

When people in the world pursue happiness, unfortunately, they usually focus on the experience of happiness and not on the good in itself and thus real happiness eludes them.

Moreover, when they seek happiness only in the good things of this passing world, any happiness is inescapably temporary.

Ultimate happiness is to be had only in the attainment of eternal good and that Eternal Good is God.

And indeed God wants us to be happy: he wants us to be with him.

This brings us to a second important point: we do not have the power to attain that ultimate eternal good – only God himself can make that possible by the gift of his grace.

Ultimate happiness is thus not an entitlement, it is a freely given gift of God: it is not something any of us can earn or deserve.

It is in this sense that we need to recognize ourselves as "unprofitable" or "useless servants:" we can add nothing to God and only he can give us the ultimate happiness for which we yearn.

Cardinal Ratzinger once summed it up nicely (not knowing it would be his last full day as a Cardinal)

"So many times we feel like
(and it is true)
that we are only useless servants.

"And despite this, the Lord calls us friends,
he makes us his friends,
he gives us his friendship."

Thanks be to our Lord Jesus Christ for the gift of his grace: the gift of his friendship, the gift of true happiness.