We Were Made For True Happiness; Let’s Help Others See That, Too
On Sept. 22, thousands of Catholics from all across the Diocese of Lansing gathered at the Breslin Center. Why did so many people make the trip to spend a day celebrating their faith?
“THERE IS NOTHING COLDER than a Christian who does not seek to save others.” So St. John Chrysostom opens a section of his Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. (Homily 20:4) We are gathered here, almost a quarter of the active Catholics of our Diocese of Lansing. Why are we here? We are here because God made us for himself – we are destined for heaven. One of the questions asked me when I was named Bishop of Lansing over 10 years ago was what my vision for the diocese was. It was simple, I said: I want to get everyone to heaven. That is the happiness for which we were made, the happiness to which we are destined.
Jesus had to correct his apostles, as they were looking only to power on this earth, thinking that would give them happiness, that being the greatest here and now was the end-all and be-all. It is as though they had never heard Jesus say that he was going to suffer and die. Rather, Jesus tells them, it is not about what we get but about what we give.
Yes, each one of us was made for happiness. But, as John Chrysostom would say, that is not all there is. That is why this vision I presented 10 years ago had to be expanded. Certainly, we sincerely need to heed the Lord’s call to seek heaven for ourselves. But there are no excuses for not helping to save others, to help them achieve the happiness with God which is their destiny and calling as well. That is why these past six years we have been focused on announcing the Gospel of the Lord.
Now I know some of us may say we are too poor in resources or ability to seek out others and their salvation. Remember that the widow put in her single coin and Jesus applauded her; she will be our judge. Remember that Peter told the cripple outside the Temple that he didn’t have any money but that he would give what he had, the name of Jesus. Peter will be our judge. We may not be able to do everything, but we can do something.
Now I know some of us may say we are only simple folk or do not have the education needed to be evangelizers. Most of the apostles were fishermen, poor and unlearned. They will be our judge. Simple saints like St. Thérèse of the Little Flower could only love, her Little Way; she will be our judge. As Chrysostom would say, “Each one can help his neighbor if only he is willing to do what is in his power.” Of course, he meant not only physical help to our neighbor but assistance for eternal happiness.
Now some of us may say that we are too ill or weak. St. Timothy certainly needed a little wine for his stomach ailments and his other infirmities, as Paul told him; he will be our judge.
Now this does not mean that we are bad people or sinners if we do not seek to help bring salvation to those around us. The man who buried the talent given him by the master was not really a bad person and probably did nothing sinful. But he was not really doing what Christ wanted, and to that degree he was not a Christian. Even the 10 foolish virgins were never accused of not being chaste or self-controlled. So they were not bad people. They just didn’t have their lamps lit; they were not able to be light for others.
Jesus wants us to be leaven in our world, to be light in our world, to be the salt of the earth. If we do not leaven; if we do not shine; if we do to savor, then are we really leaven or light or salt? As Christians, we are by nature made to be for others, for their salvation, for their eternal happiness. In this sense, then, to say that we were made for happiness means that we were made not just for our own happiness, but that everyone out there is made for happiness and it is our task to assist them in their journey. Not to proclaim the Gospel of the Lord raises the question which Chrysostom asks: “How can such a person be a Christian?”
The Church Father then states: “Do not say: It is impossible for me to influence others (to become Christians). If you are a Christian, it is impossible for this not to happen.” So, my sisters and brothers, we are all sent forth into the arena of the world, let us announce the Gospel of the Lord; let us be light and salt and leaven. The gift we have received is ours to share. It is a great gift. It is salvation. It is true happiness. Let us help others see that they, too, were made for happiness.