One of the most difficult truths that far too many people have always struggled with is believing that they were created by God to be happy. The struggle is that not only is life itself filled with opportunities sadness and pain but also that the God who revealed Himself to us through Christ Jesus and the sacred Scriptures does not communicate happiness or at least a happiness that resembles anything that we are familiar with in the world. Yet, there the Church has dared to remind us that God made us to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in Heaven, but do we have to wait until we die to be happy? No. The constant truth is that we were created in the image and likeness of God, and all that we are and all that we will be is like God. Therefore, we are called to be happy because God is happy, and Christ Jesus who is everything like His Father is happy, and He is also happy being fully God and fully man, and like us in every way but sin. Therefore, we must study Christ and explore His life, because if He was happy, let us then discover what happiness looks like according to our Lord and God.
Here, the answer is clear. Any absence of happiness in our present life only means that we are not fully present in the divine nature. That is to say, succumbing to sin and temptation is what causes us to be less than happy. In contrast, the pursuit of holiness is the path to happiness. Indeed, this is why the Prince of this World has duped us all into believing that sinning is what makes us happy, and why despair, which is the gravest of sins, leads us to suicide; voluntarily canceling one’s own life – the last act of creature who has given up on obtaining true happiness.
This is why the Divine Symphony; the liturgy of the Mass is so essential to our lives. For, the Mass is our path to true happiness, because the Mass is our path to holiness. Holy people are happy people because they have become or are becoming who God created to be.
The First Reading at the Divine Symphony today for the 6th Week in Easter for Year C, comes from the book of Acts, 15:1-2, 22-29. Here at rightly the first ecumenical council of the Catholic Church, our first bishops were dealing with the question of circumcision for Gentiles, and they listened to the Holy Spirit who made it clear to them that the path to holiness is not to be made arduous and burdensome by the Church, for, temptation makes it difficult and burdensome enough. If you recall how happy you felt that time when your parents, or your teacher, or your supervisor at work make your life easier in some way by rewarding you with less work. Such was the case when the Jews who were working so hard to observe the law heard Jesus say “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.” So too were the Gentiles very happy that the path to salvation and holiness was open to them without any burden to be placed upon them beside those that were necessary.
So too does the Second Reading from Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23 come in to remind us how God must be happy because He wants all of us to come to His feast, His home, and His Heart. In John’s vision, he said the Angel took him in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed him the holy city of Jerusalem coming down out of the Heavens from God. One might think at first that this city is unwelcoming because it had a massive high wall, but no city that was designed to keep people out would have twelve gates. It may two, but definitely no more than four, but the city of God has twelve ways to enter because it is for all the tribes of God’s people who will be led there by the twelve apostles of the Lamb. How happy we ought to be in hearing that God wants us to come home to Him and that all we need to do is follow the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and who comes to the Divine Symphony to make us worthy to pass through the gates.
We can say that succinctly the Apostles were teaching the Gentiles, you have a home here in this Church of Christ, and for hearing that, they were happy. John was happy seeing all the gates and entryways into the New Jerusalem, and now our Lord, Christ Jesus dares says to us in today’s Gospel reading from John 14:23-29, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” We ought to be very happy hearing those words. We ought to cling to Him with reckless love, but it does become difficult at times and happiness seems like the least of our concerns. We are just trying to live and make it to the next thing. Yet, for this He also says to us in today’s reading, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.”
Oh, if we truly believed in the peace of Christ Jesus and how His peace keeps us tied to the path of holiness and happiness we would not treat the sign of peace Mass so trivially; nor would the Church in the first few centuries have treated the kiss of peace as Mass so abominably. But this is why the liturgy given to us had always been so unique and different from the world; why the liturgy was truly a set apart space that gave us space from the world and calls us into our littleness so that we might fall in awe to the otherness of God. The liturgy of the Mass was there to make us feel humble and small and having felt like a little child before our Eternal Father, we knew we were happy; happy to just commune with Him in this moment that we knew was just a foretaste of the happiness that was created for.
My friends, embrace the path to holiness and happiness that the Divine Symphony has set before you and live it every day.
This is just one way how the readings at Mass this Sunday connect to the liturgy and how the liturgy is forming us how to live our lives in the world. Be in the world what you have received through the liturgy.