If you ask anyone their life goals, where they see themselves in ten years, it always boils down to one word: Happiness. I mean who doesn’t want to be happy? Doesn’t that motivate most of our decisions in life? But how can we achieve this sparkly ray of sunshine? And how do we make sure that it doesn’t just go away?
Fr. Tat is the one who taught me the key to happiness. Short in stature yet lighting up the room when he walks through the door, Fr. Tat seems to emanate joy itself, and I can’t help but wondering how and why? This man is not rich, nor is he surrounded by the coolest people so why is he so happy? According to the world he should be miserable. But you know what Fr. Tat had a simple daily one minute rule that if you follow with a full heart, guarantees happiness. You wanna know what it is? Every day wake up or go to bed and thank God for three things in your life. The only catch? No repeats! Simple right? And just doing that won’t make you change, or will it?
I started the day I met Fr. Tat, and at first I found myself saying pretty generic things like my family or my friends, but to ensure the no repeats things I knew I had to be more specific, so I started going deeper. Thank you for my friend Alie, thank you that my Dad sent me a card. And at first I noticed no change in my life at all, but then I noticed a change. When I had to meet my lab group who I had complained multiple times already to my roommate about because they were late, or didn’t try as hard as me or whatever, I actually found myself that night thanking God for each member, for their impact in my life and the chance God gave me to love them.
It’s actually quite genius, when your heart is full of thank you, you can’t complain because once you genuinely realize how much you have to say thank you about you really can’t be grumpy or unhappy. We have been given so much to smile about and once we recognize it, joy is guaranteed.
Boom! Mind blown, life changed, you are welcome! So guess what? Now all you have to do is try! Go be happy, be thankful, and life will be better not because of an allusion but because you’ll realize your biggest burdens are the catapults to better life, the chances God gives you to show courageous love.
Recently thousands have gathered for the Rally for Life and it got me thinking (oh no! sounds like a blogpost is coming…yep!) about just how precious life is. After original sin, humanity was separated from the full presence of God. But, God did not let this fallen state of humanity last, He had a plan; the Incarnation, God in flesh. Jesus. God didn’t stop there though, oh no! He knew that the only way to restore humanity was to give the ultimate sacrifice. The most beautiful gift of self. The most anyone can give because it was the most we are given. Life.
Think about it. The thing God chose to give us, the God of the universe, the King of all Kings, the omnipotent, who could have given us anything, chose to give us the gift of His life. That is what Jesus did when He died on the cross for us, He chose to give us the most precious thing He could; He chose to give us His life so that we could live ours to the fullest.
Life. The thing we take for granted so often. The thing that our culture scoffs at, diminishes to a complication, a challenge no longer worth it, but through God’s eyes it is the most precious thing He has given us. And now in our society of death, Satan has convinced us to disregard it, to spit at it, to mock it, just as he convinced us to do to Jesus when He was on the way to offer His very life.
This is why I am so proud of my fellow Catholics who stood up and said enough is enough! My fellow Catholics who are living lives in purity, holiness, and joy. Those of us who are living life to its fullest, by entrusting it to His care. He who knows just how precious the gift He gave us is. If we entrust our lives to Him imagine what He could do because He knows the beauty and incredibleness of life because He made it!
I’ve been thinking about this idea of failure a lot. Most people are just convinced success is in the money. “Well if only I had more money, we would be happier we wouldn’t have to worry, then everything would be fine”, and although money is an essential part of life, I argue that as long as you are not at the point of real need (so you can buy food, shelter, clothes, education) then no amount of money is going to make you happy. If you can’t live in your situation and love the people around you and laugh with them, even if you find that you are living and laughing in a stable, then you can’t be happy with all the money in the world.
Once we reach the point where we live in the world and only see all we don’t have, then we will never have the heart to love the things we do. I think some people with all the money in the world still look around and say “if only I had more”, but I think those are the people who end up existing in a state that is lifeless and sad because they have nothing worth living for, nothing worth fighting for. I think maybe we need to look at the world like St. Francis and say if only I had less! Then I would not be distracted by the stuff but hold on to what’s important.
Then I could see the miracles in everyday life, like the trees and the animals. I mean have you ever really looked at a tree? What a miracle in itself the fact that it can live from the rays of the sun and that its roots take in all the nutrients it needs. Or think of the miracle that is you! The fact that we can move, that our bodies have tiny little sodium potassium pumps that make electric potential differences to move every muscle in our body, and that it took more effort for me to write that sentence then for my body to do all that!
I think that will be my goal for the week, that I may pray not for God to give me more, but less.
Yesterday’s Gospel readings is one of my favorites, not because it sounds poetic or has some inspirational saying that people put on posters with cats, but Mark 10:22 is one of my favorite verses of scripture because of freshman theology class with Fr. John. One of the activities in this class was to illustrate a given bible passage and I remember Fr. John sharing with us a picture that one of my classmates drew about this verse.
“At that saying his face fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.”
Now this verse comes from a conversation Jesus is having with a rich man and this is the end of the conversation where Jesus tells the man that if he wants to inherit eternal life then he must sell all his possessions and follow Jesus. The above is the rich man’s reaction to Jesus, and my peer in freshman theology class took this verse very seriously when drawing their illustration because they drew a man standing with a face near his feet!
At first I thought this was hysterical! Who would take this verse so seriously, there are many translations of this verse and most say that the man merely went away sad, but because of my peers picture from that point on every time I heard that reading all I could imagine was a man standing with a face at his feet. At first I would tell myself to get rid of this foolish thought and focus on the great sacrament of the mass. But it was no use! So then I took it to God saying, “Clearly God you want me to learn something from this otherwise get this image out of my head” and you know what? God did have something for me to learn and this is it: Your face is your identity. Think about it. In superhero movies they always have masks covering their face, why??? To conceal their identity! So saying that the rich man’s face fell makes me think that instead of establishing his identity in God, as a follower of Christ, the rich man had his identity in his money. So when Jesus told him to give his money away, his face fell because his money was what gave him his identity.
What does this have to do with us and me personally? Well coming back to college made me rethink my wardrobe because what says who you are more than your fashion, right? For example yesterday I almost spent an hour picking out an outfit. An hour! (ok I have spent longer than an hour to pick out an outfit before ) And so when I went to mass and heard this reading and thought about what made my identity I realized that I was doing exactly the same thing the rich man was doing! I was defining my identity by my clothes rather than defining my identity as a daughter of the King.
So I challenge you not to ignore the seemingly crazy thoughts like people’s faces falling off while you are trying to pray. If it happens once try to refocus, but if you can’t seem to shake a crazy thought don’t get angry or hide it bring it to God maybe He’s telling you something that you need to hear, like your identity does not rest in others, or the way you dress or look but in the God who created you out of love! (Someone should have told Borne Ultimatum that and that movie would have been way shorter 😉 )
This is something I shared with the Facebook world a couple months ago and is really the reason I started blogging. In some small way this is giving the world a part of me, one of my leaves, and maybe someday we will not only search for our own trees but for the one who arranges our leaves into what we call our trees.
It annoyed me from my deepest being that they pretended to instantly understand me, and my sense of humor which I considered infinitesimally beautiful and unique. In my innermost heart I wanted to be something marveled at and adored. I wanted someone to look into my eyes and see that there was more to me, that there was depth and layers and beauty enveloped by beauty enveloped by beauty. That you could not really know me after just a couple of days, but that I had an amazing secret inside me waiting to be unfolded, and moreover that someone would be just as excited and yearn to discover that innermost person just as much as I long to show it to the world. I wanted someone to see the sparkle in my eye as the hint of something truly magnificent on the inside. And it annoyed me to no extent that this person thought that just because I shared a glimpse of the beauty to come that they knew everything about me.
Then it struck me. This must be how God feels all the time! He reveals the smallest part of His glory and wonder to us and we accept it as knowing everything about Him. But just like this person who judged my glimmer as the innermost me, we are judging a leaf as an entire tree. A tree that holds all of life and wonder and goes further then we can see on the surface, as roots are unseen but one of the most innate parts of the tree. One cannot look at the leaf and say this must be it. I know the entirety of the tree because I have seen this one infinitesimally small part. That person knows nothing. He knows not what the tree does nor the purpose and if this one were to try to describe the tree to another, he would be describing a leaf and calling it the tree.