Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mid-Winter Blahs, the Beatitudes, and Me

We're about halfway between Christmas and New Year's Eve. One of those is an important Christian observance, and both are major secular holidays in America. Between commercial hype, revved-up expectations, and massive quantities of festive food and drink: I could write about 'post-Christmas blahs,' or 'midwinter blues.'

Instead, I figured I'd post about being happy.

In a religious blog?! I plan to be back Sunday, with a post about 'gloominess is next to Godliness:' or, rather, the reverse of that. Of course, what I *plan,* and what actually happens - - - and that's another topic.

Who Wants to be Happy?

"The Beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness. This desire is of divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it:

"We all want to live happily; in the whole human race there is no one who does not assent to this proposition, even before it is fully articulated.13
"How is it, then, that I seek you, Lord? Since in seeking you, my God, I seek a happy life, let me seek you so that my soul may live, for my body draws life from my soul and my soul draws life from you.14

"God alone satisfies.15
"The Beatitudes reveal the goal of human existence, the ultimate end of human acts: God calls us to his own beatitude. This vocation is addressed to each individual personally, but also to the Church as a whole, the new people made up of those who have accepted the promise and live from it in faith."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1718-1719)
The Beatitudes are what we call Matthew 5:3-12: the part that starts with " 'Blessed are the poor in spirit,..." and ends with "...Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

"Persecuted?" And this is supposed to be about being happy? I've mentioned Saint Philip Neri, and how the anything-but-grim parts of his life story were snipped out of 'proper' reading for American Catholics. More topics.

Still, being happy and being 'spiritual' don't seem to go together. I think it's a cultural thing.

Back to the Catechism:

To Know, Love, and Serve God

"God put us in the world to know, to love, and to serve him, and so to come to paradise. Beatitude makes us 'partakers of the divine nature' and of eternal life.21 With beatitude, man enters into the glory of Christ22 and into the joy of the Trinitarian life."
(Catechism, 1721)

"Partakers of the Divine Nature?!"

Oh, come on: how could I possible "know God?" I'm finite, God's infinite. I'm a creature, God's the creator. I've been over how we can know God before. And, as I've said before, I've got the authority of "some guy with a blog:" so follow those links, if you're curious about what the Church says.

'Partaking of the Divine Nature' is another one of those things that come under the 'God's God, I'm not' heading:
"Such beatitude surpasses the understanding and powers of man. It comes from an entirely free gift of God: whence it is called supernatural, as is the grace that disposes man to enter into the divine joy.
" 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.' It is true, because of the greatness and inexpressible glory of God, that 'man shall not see me and live,' for the Father cannot be grasped. But because of God's love and goodness toward us, and because he can do all things, he goes so far as to grant those who love him the privilege of seeing him. . . . For 'what is impossible for men is possible for God.'23"
(Catechism, 1722)
Parts of that sound like the sort of 'happy time' preaching we've had now and then:
  • Sit back
  • Let God do the heavy lifting
  • And be
    • Happy
    • Happy
    • Happy
You guessed it: It's not that easy.

"Decisive Moral Choices"

It's true: God handles what we can't do on our own. But we're expected to do more than sit back and 'go with the flow.' Every day, I've got choices to make:
"The beatitude we are promised confronts us with decisive moral choices. It invites us to purify our hearts of bad instincts and to seek the love of God above all else. It teaches us that true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or in any human achievement - however beneficial it may be - such as science, technology, and art, or indeed in any creature, but in God alone, the source of every good and of all love:
"All bow down before wealth. Wealth is that to which the multitude of men pay an instinctive homage. They measure happiness by wealth; and by wealth they measure respectability. . . . It is a homage resulting from a profound faith . . . that with wealth he may do all things. Wealth is one idol of the day and notoriety is a second. . . . Notoriety, or the making of a noise in the world - it may be called 'newspaper fame' - has come to be considered a great good in itself, and a ground of veneration.24"
(Catechism, 1723)
Looks like we're called to happiness: but not giddiness. That business of seeking "the love of God above all else" isn't easy, and neither is shoveling out the "bad instincts."

Oh, well: Nobody said this was going to be easy. Or, rather, someone did: Matthew 11:30. And that's yet another topic. One that's discussed in footnote 17 of Matthew 11.

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.