How To Be Happy

If you want to be happy, be grateful; if you want to make others happy, tell them you are grateful for their existence. It is as simple as that. Giving thanks is something human beings are created for, and we do it best when we forget ourselves and simply rejoice in the gift of being, especially God’s. That is what monks and nuns do all day long, thank and praise God that he is; and when we fail to do that, or allow our grumbles and gripes to get the upper hand, everything goes wrong. Instead of a huge smile spreading across the face of creation, there is a snarl of selfishness instead. It makes others unhappy, as well as ourselves. We turn inwards, become preoccupied, add to the world’s misery and pain.

Today our friends in the U.S.A. are celebrating Thanksgiving. In an important sense, every day should be a day of thanksgiving. Whether American or not, why don’t we all take a moment or two to register how much we can and should give thanks for? We don’t have to pretend to be grateful for things that distress us, but we can always find someone or something for which to give thanks without any falsification. People sometimes say they have asked God for something and he hasn’t answered their prayer in the way they wanted, so they are giving up on him — conveniently forgetting that he hasn’t given up on them. Perhaps saying ‘thank you’ might change their perspective, allowing God a little space in their lives. No one really likes being reduced to the level of a shopping-list or fairy godmother, not even God.

We don’t know what today will hold, but let’s begin it by giving thanks for the gift of a new day, for all that has been, all that is, and all that is still to come.

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The God in Whom I Do Not Believe

People often tell me why they don’t believe in God: he has not answered their prayer; he has allowed someone close to die; he does not do away with all the evil and suffering in the world; the Church is full of abuses. I have to agree that I don’t believe in such a pathetic God, either. I don’t believe in someone who is merely there to rubber-stamp whatever I want; who doesn’t take me seriously enough to allow me free will but wants me to be a puppet on a string; who only has time for those who are good. I don’t believe in a God who is capricious, small-minded and mean; whose existence can be ‘proved’; who is as finite as I am.

You see, the arguments against the existence of God that many people use are actually rooted in unthinking petulance. I asked God for something, but he didn’t give it (question: why should God give you what you ask?); God took away someone I love (question: what kind of love desires what is good for itself rather than what is good for the other?); I want there to be nothing difficult or cruel in the world (question: what kind of world is that?); I want the Church to be full of saints (question: isn’t the Church meant for sinners in the process of becoming saints?)

The God in whom I believe is a Person of infinite tenderness and love, of breathtaking beauty and intellect. Eternity will not allow me to plumb the depths of God, how much less this brief life on earth! But this I can assert with absolute trust and confidence. Whatever I believe about God is so much less than the truth of God. ‘As the heavens are high above the earth, so are my thoughts above your thoughts.’ Ultimately, it is not a question of the God in whom you or I believe or don’t believe but of the God who is.

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