Fr. Rolando V. De La Rosa OP

Today’s gospel reading is about the “Beatitudes,” or Jesus's guidelines for a happy life (Mark 5:1-12).

At first glance, what Jesus says appears difficult to grasp because we have become accustomed to seeing influencers, celebrities, politicians, business tycoons, film and music icons, the rich and the famous as the embodiment of happiness. We behold their faces brimming with contentment, satisfaction, and a heightened sense of self-worth. They appear like people who are untouched by pain and suffering.
By contrast, Jesus tells us that happiness lies cheek to cheek with the deepest sorrow, for we cannot appreciate one without experiencing the other. So, to be happy, we must have the right attitude (‘be-attitude’) towards everything that life brings us.

One article in “Psychology Today” concurs with this. It shows that happy people have the ability to modify their behavior to match a situation’s demands. They know that many things in life that are beyond their control. Psychological flexibility enables them to tolerate discomfort and venture out of their comfort zone.

If we become so attached to comfort and riches, the slightest suffering or discomfort becomes excruciating. But if we are used to having little or nothing, even the cheapest luxury will bring us immeasurable pleasure or joy.

What happens when we refuse to accept suffering as a part of life? What if we are allergic to grief, material deprivation, and persecution? We do everything to avoid these. But if we constantly avoid pain or discomfort, our short-term gain actually brings long-term pain. We are like the person who, when under stress, decides to take drugs. It gives him temporary relief or forgetfulness. But when the drug’s effect wanes, the bad feeling returns, so he takes drugs again. This vicious cycle results in addiction, which is a worse problem than the unresolved issues he had avoided by taking drugs.

A friend of mine shared with me his secret to happy life. He said: “Be grateful.” Every night, he allots 30 minutes before he goes to sleep to write a “gratitude list.” This routine makes him thankful for his family, the food he eats, the clothes he wears, the house he lives in, the friends who are always there for him, the ordinary surprises he encounters, and the unexpected miracles he is blessed with. He feels happy just writing all these down because he knows that asignificant proportion of the world’s population is deprived of what he enjoys.

Perpetual complainers feel miserable because they take their blessings for granted. If we are not thankful for the blessings we receive, they turn into curses. As one counselor says: “Blessings are like oxygen. It is all around us, yet it is often unnoticed and not appreciated until it is missing.”

Happiness need not be found in spectacular things. If we base our happiness on major events like a resounding success, huge amounts of money, a grand vacation, a splendid achievement, or winning the lotto, chances are, we will never be happy for most of our life. Happiness is living each day as if it were our birthday or the beginning of a much anticipated weekend.

Happiness does not happen to us. We make it happen by deciding beforehand that whatever life throws at us, we shall be happy. As one inspiring song goes:

“Happiness is where you are and what you want to be. If you look you’re sure to find the rainbow of your dreams. Tomorrow’s fuller than a thousand yesterdays with the vision of a new day in your heart.”