Don’t try to grasp at happiness – A homily for October 21, 2018 by Deacon Alan Doty


Several years ago a colleague and I were driving through Wales, a very beautiful, green and mountainous country. My colleague, who was German,  and I we were trying to find the town where our customer had an office. It was not going well. In Wales the names of streets, towns  and other places are about t-h-i-s- long with very few vowels. Due to the mountains our cell phones, and Google Maps, were useless. As a backup my co-worker had printed out directions from MapQuest- remember MapQuest? But for some strange reason, the directions were in Dutch, a language that neither of us understood.

We stopped in one town to ask directions of a postal carrier, but neither German accented nor American accented English was intelligible to him, and his Welsh accent was impenetrable to both of us.

It was getting late, and tensions in that car were a little high. It was an important meeting and we were going to be late. When all seemed lost we turned a corner and slammed on the brakes. There, sitting at a bench at the edge of the road sat our colleague Peter, a local. He knew we would eventually pass by this road. Led by Peter we arrived at our appointment in the nick of time.

This story reminds me of today’s Gospel.  Actually when I read this weekend’s Gospel I was quite sad.  I was sad in part because the apostles didn’t get it. Not surprised perhaps but saddened that despite all of Jesus’ teaching, and his revelation that he would suffer and die before being resurrected, their primary concern seemed to be ‘what’s in it for me’. I guess human nature has not changed. How many of us approach Jesus in prayer by saying “I want you to do for me whatever I ask of you” as we just heard Peter and James.

What really made me sad though was thinking back on how many times in my life I had Jesus right next to me but I went looking for happiness outside of Him.  The times I grasped at happiness rather than receiving it as a free gift from the Lord. It’s as if I thought that my will, my knowledge, was sufficient.  But after all, it is God, it is Jesus, who writes all the lines, all the words, and all the letters to our lives.  When I honestly look at all the ways I sin, or all the ways I am tempted to, it always, I mean always, springs from a lack of trust in my heart.  Take the temptation of trying to have more power, as Peter and James did. Not necessarily power over others but maybe power over events. We want things to go our way. What we are doing is asking Jesus to ‘do whatever I ask’. We are trying to control and dictate the terms of our happiness, when the source of all truth and happiness is standing by our side.

All our sins and temptations reveal that our heart is empty of trust in God, our heart is not filled with the love of Christ that causes us to trust him completely.

If we only realize how much God’s love is out there for all of us.  If we would only open our hearts just a little bit, God would totally fill our hearts.  Listen again to the words of Psalm 33 which we recited a few minutes ago.

“Upright is the word of the LORD, and all his works are trustworthy.

He loves justice and right; of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full. “

‘Of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full’. Fill our hearts, Lord, with trust in your kindness.

Trust in God’s will is the opposite of the demand of Peter and John that Jesus “do whatever we ask of you”. God’s will is all loving and all knowing, Whatever his is asking of you is all loving, entirely for your good. God’s will for you is the only true source of happiness and truth in your life.

Jesus came to show us the love of the Father. Faith is our trust in that love. Jesus wanted always to do the Father’s will, even when it led to suffering and a cruel death. As Christians, we live our lives in imitation of his. Like Jesus we have a duty and a calling, and find our full measure of happiness in, dedication to God’s will for us. In following His will we approach God, the fulfillment of all our desires, the source of all happiness.  If on the other hand we do not trust God and his providential love for us, then we will not grow or develop spiritually and will never be the whole and complete people that God intends us to be.

God reveals his will to us in our lives in many different ways. Normally, we discover our duty and God’s will for us, not in world-changing plans or in heroic ideals but in the ordinary tasks of each day. At home or in the office, or the school or in prayer, wherever the activity of the moment calls us, try to be aware of his will with a sense of dedication.

You never know when someday, when all seems lost, you will turn a corner  and find the Lord, waiting patiently to lead you to his happiness.

Don’t try to grasp at happiness. Fill your heart with trust in the Lord’s kindness towards you.

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