Third Advent: Authentic Happiness, Authentic Joy
This is Gaudete or Rejoice Sunday. The readings force us to ask ourselves: What makes us happy, really happy? Well, I am really happy when the BUCS, Lightning or Yankees or Rays win. But that happiness doesn’t last. I’ll go to Raymond James Stadium where the BUCS play and see the world championship banner. That puts a smile on my face, but that happy year was followed by a losing season. I’ll go to the St. Pete Times Forum where the Lightning plays and gaze at the Stanley Cup Banner. I still can’t believe Tampa Bay won the Cup, but that happiness has faded with time. Tropicana Field sports an American League Championship Banner and soon they will raise a Division Championship Banner, but in both cases happiness came crashing down when the season ended in defeat. As far as the Yankees go, 27 championships is a nice round number, but not enough for a Yankee fan.
What really makes for lasting happiness? Certainly not sports, and certainly not stuff. Technology has advanced at such a break neck speed that the stuff that costs so much five years ago is now relatively worthless. You can now buy a combination DVD and VCR player for $30 over at Big Lots. Only a few years ago DVD players were going for $200-300. Before that VCR’s were selling for that amount.
Stuff doesn’t bring lasting happiness. Happiness that lasts comes from relationships. Mature people are far more concerned with the signs of love they bring the people they love on Christmas than they are at what signs of love they may receive. The relationship is what matters. Many of our seniors will tell you that they really love their husbands or wives and continued to do so after their spouse died. Some who have lost children would also agree. In our faith, we believe that our loved ones who have gone before us are with the Lord watching over us now and waiting for us to join them later on. That makes us happy.
Every Christmas I receive pictures of many of the children and Teens of our parish. That is Mom and Dad’s way of saying: “Come and share our joy.” Your children are your joy even when they try your patience. They are the source of your joy because you love them so much for whom they are: your children, your own unique reflections of God’s love in your lives.
Happiness is found in relationship.
The greatest relationship we can possibly have is the one that brings us the greatest joy. That is the relationship with Jesus Christ. Real happiness comes from the encounter with God. The relationships we have with other people all take their depth from the relationship we have with the Lord. People truly love each other when they see God’s goodness in each other. When the relationship with God is not present, the relationship of two people is rather shallow.
People saw God in John the Baptist. They were drawn to him, even though he was ruthless in proclaiming the Truth. Actually, that is what fascinated them, more than that, that is what set their hearts on fire. They encountered God in John the Baptist. “Whom did you go out to see?” Jesus asks in today’s Gospel, “A reed that is shaken by the wind?” Or, in our terms, a politician who changes his position with each election according to what would be politically advantageous. No, people came out to hear a prophet and experience God through that prophet. Yes, he was calling them to a radical change in their lives, but he was also calling them to God. And they sensed it. They experienced God in the radical words of the prophet. They jumped into the water to be baptized by John because they wanted what he had. They wanted God. They wanted true happiness.
We have a greater than John the Baptist. We have Jesus Christ. Why are we attracted to Christ? We are attracted to Christ because the encounter with God burns within us. We are attracted to Christ because we know His Love is real for each of us. His Love is real, and it is forever. We are attracted to Christ because He brings lasting happiness.
May the final days before Christmas be for you and your families days of authentic joy, His Joy.