“Are You Willing?”

Happy Octave Day of the Nativity of the Lord! Happy Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God! Happy World Day of Peace!… and…Happy New Year! Yes…there is certainly a lot for us to be “Happy” about. Yet…that is not to deny the fact, that we certainly do live in troubled times. Our world seeks joy and yet it is profoundly sad. Our world seeks peace and yet violence and disorder abound. Our world seeks love and the happiness that it accords…yet it succumbs to the allure of the evil one; the deceitful allure that we will find happiness in all those things that are actually rejections of God (Who is Love), and that actually oppose the clear and simple guidelines He has given to attain and retain happiness. Despite the challenges and trials that our world will relentlessly put before us, we can… and should… be happy. Crosses are a part of everyone’s life, or should be, as we hear several times in the Bible, the explanation given by Jesus…that “Whoever wishes to come after me, must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me (Mt 16:24, Mk 8:34, Lk 9:23).

As I write this column…(actually three days prior to Christmas Day, in order to meet the J.S. Paluch bulletin publisher’s deadline), I am projecting myself through these final very busy preparatory days that precede Christmas. I am leaping right through the Christmas festivities, and…hopefully…also through the accompanying joy of the actual celebration of His First Coming. And here we are…January 1, 2017. We have all been here before, and (again, hopefully) have been positively impacted by our annual “return to normal”.  Let us all return with strong desires to improve our stewardship spirituality; our way of living our faith and benefitting from the real happiness that emanates from such a life. Will this be the best year yet for embracing our resolutions and our designs to make our “new year”… better in every way possible, especially from a spiritual perspective? I pray that it will be, for all of us.

Let’s reflect for just a moment. How many of us are prepared to positively respond to His salvific invitation to take up our cross? Are we now ready to “Come follow Jesus”, if it meant the loss of friends, family, reputation, career, and possibly even our life? Such a call is what Jesus meant when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.” His invitation very basically and succinctly meant “a call to die to self’, to stop putting the genuine needs of others in our lives… behind our own worldly self-interests. If you wonder whether you are ready to take up your cross, consider these questions:

  • Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing some of your closest friends?
  • Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means alienation from your family?
  • Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means the loss of your reputation?
  • Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your job?
  • Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your life?

Certainly these are very tough questions. However, as we all well know, in many places in the world, these consequences are reality. But notice the questions are phrased, “Are you willing?Following Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean all these things will happen to you, but… are you willing to take up your cross? If there comes a point in your life where you are faced with a choice….Jesus?… or the comforts of this life?…which will you choose?

These thoughts tie perfectly into the inspiration contained in Matthew Kelly’s new book, “Resisting Happiness”; the book that every family received after Mass last week, as a Christmas gift from the parish. If you are still awaiting your tum to read it (only 186 pages), I encourage you to do so as soon as you can. Happy New Year! Happy Life! These are genuinely good aspirations and desires for every person… young and old, infirm or well, “away” from the Church, or in full accord. With its curious title however… “Resisting Happiness” …I must mention that it is not a “How to Book” for denying ourselves happiness. Happiness is God’s desire for us all, as we faithfully carry our various crosses in pursuit of the Eternal Happiness He has promised all His good and faithful servants. He wants good things for us even more than we want them for ourselves, for He knows, without error, what is the best for us. The world, the flesh, and the devil cannot allure and deceive Him, as unfortunately they have done for so much of the world. That ongoing deceit has our world, and our nation, profoundly resisting God (and resisting all that is truly good), thereby resisting the very source and provider of happiness, Himself. And, instead, has us pursuing, embracing and praising veritable evils as being good. Evils like homosexual expressive acts, so-called same-sex marriage, and the myth of so-called trans-genderism. Add to those (now “good”) evils, the label recently given (by the favored, but losing presidential contender) to the abominable act of killing inconvenient pre-born babies. The candidate proclaimed abortion to be “a fundamental human right”; suggested expansion of world-wide access to abortion; and, in league with the “father of lies”, labeling “goods” as evil…professed that deep-seated American “cultural codes”, religious beliefs, and structural biases, have to be changed …and then likened pro-life Americans to terrorists.

Let us be clear that it is our misguided quest for, and embrace of, the many worldly attractions, that provide the barrier; that instills and ignites our “Resistance to Happiness.” God is Good. God is Love. God is our Happiness.  Pursue Him in all that you do… by simply living in the peace and accord that His will and His precepts. How long does it take us to clearly discern and see the light, and the truth in His “way”. Truly wishing you   happiness throughout your new year. Choose well and peace will be with you.

Happy New Year,    fr denis