In a Peanut’s cartoon, Lucy asks Linus why God made people. Linus replies that God made people to make others happy. An obviously unhappy Lucy cries out, “Then somebody’s not doing their job!”
Whose job is it anyway to make us happy? I have never seen this requirement on any job description.
The Declaration of Independence recognized inalienable rights given by God as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We know by the truth of our faith that without first the right to life, we will never really have true liberty or lasting happiness.
Yet the pursuit of happiness is the engine of economics, politics and religions. Our pursuit of happiness can be as simple as a piece of chocolate cake. It can also be as complex as the management of possessions and the maintenance of relationships.
We know all too well what makes us unhappy. But we don’t always know what will make us happy. Happiness is conditioned. It depends on something — on attaining whatever is our pursuit.
It is a well-trod path to find happiness on our own. It is easy to grab a moment of bliss with some libation, inhalation or ingestion. How fleeting is this happiness? How costly the price? The glad tidings of the evening before do not hang over through the next day.
There are the hard-wired desires in our brains that pursue happiness with primal obsession. Without the pursuit of spiritual treasures and the acceptance of God’s eternal gifts, we eventually attain only the seven deadly sins. It is in the nature of who God created us to be that we look beyond the things of this world to find the happiness we seek.
What is discovered is that while happiness is temporary, joy is forever. Satisfying instinct is our job. Joy is a gift from God. In many ways, finding our joy in God alone is never really understood until we have failed at happiness. In this way, joy and happiness are distinct. That is why there can still be joy in our hearts when circumstances, conditions and consequences have us less than happy.
At every Mass, regardless of our earthly pursuits, we receive the real presence of Jesus Christ. In thankful worship, we know a joy that nothing in this world can give us and nothing in this world can take away from us. This is the true peace which surpasses all understanding.
A joyful spirit comes from our faith and is itself our gift back to God. Our perseverance through it all is itself our witness to the Gospel. The world has its mournful lyrics about what is wrong, evil and false. The outward manifestation of our discipleship is that we have the words to what is right, good and true. We have joy.
Joy is a moment of goosebumps in a chapter of tears. Joy comes from a heart grateful for the support of family and friends when burying a loved one. Joy is there even when we are humiliated by our sins and experience the grace of God that transforms them into good teachers for a better life.
We have done the holidays, for better and for worse. The New Year is already old news. But God does Christmas and continues to unfold this mystery for us every day of our lives, no matter the season.
No, it is no one’s job to make us happy. But we can spread the Good News of Jesus Christ knowing that it doesn’t have to be Christmas for us to be singing “Joy to the World.”