Do you want to be happy for a few hours? Get drunk. Do you want to be happy for some years? Grab the pleasures that life gives you. Qohelet himself suggests: “Go, eat your bread with joy and drink your wine with a merry heart … and spare not the perfume for your head. Enjoy life with the wife you love, all the days of the vain life granted you under the sun” (Ecl 9:7-9).
But how to be happy always?
Joy is not identified with the pleasure that, although loved and blessed by God, is ephemeral, obsolete and so often leads to sadness and disappointment. “Even in laughter the heart may be sad, and the end of joy may be sorrow” (Prov 14:13).
The Bible guarantees a paradox: true and lasting joy is born of commitment, renunciation, self-denial, sacrifice and accompanied by pain. “Now I am glad to suffer for you,” says Paul to the Colossians (Col 1:24). To persecuted Christians, James recommends: “My brethren, consider it as the greatest happiness to have to endure various trials” (Jas 1:2). And Peter recognizes: “You … rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy” (1 Pet 1:8).
What is the secret of this joy? Jesus reveals it: “It is better to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). It is not blessed who accumulates and retains selfishly the goods for himself, but who, distributing, becomes poor to help the needy.
A bewildering proposition. Accepting it is risky, but He is the guarantor.
To internalize the message, we repeat:
“Blessed is he who retains nothing for himself and becomes poor for love.”
“Judas, taking the morsel, went out immediately. And it was night” (Jn 13:30). A few words to describe a dramatic scene: a man, now at the mercy of his crazy projects, abandons Christ—the light—and is swallowed by darkness.
Man fears the darkness of the night and is heartened when he sees the first signs of dawn. Sentries scan the horizon, waiting for the dawn (Ps 130:6). Long are the nights of those who burn with fever, are troubled by nightmares and are in the state of tossing and turning up in the morning (Jn 7:3-4).
One who precipitates in the darkness of vice, falsehood, injustice also waits for the ray of light. One who announces the end of a painful night and the beginning of a new day waits for that ray of light, too.
“Watchman, how much of the night remains?” the prophet asks (Is 21:11). How much longer will the darkness of evil and of sin in the world be? When will the people be freed from the power of darkness? (Col 1:13).
Paul invites us to hope. “This is the time to awake, for our salvation is now nearer than when we first believed; the night is almost over and the day is at hand” (Rom 13:11-12).
The light-darkness conflict continues, waiting for the endless day, when “there will be no more night. They will not need the light of lamp or sun for God himself will be the light and they will reign forever” (Rev 22:5).
To internalize the message, we repeat:
“We were darkness but now we are light. Make us, O Lord, behave as children of the light.”
There is no page of Scripture that the theme of vocation does not appear in some way. “In the beginning, God calls the creatures to existence” (Wis 11:25), calls man to life and when Adam turns away from him he asks: Where are you? (Gen 3:9). God calls a people and prefers them among all the peoples of the earth (Dt 10:14-15). He calls Abraham, Moses, the prophets and gives them a mission to bring to fruition, a plan of salvation to be realized. He also calls the stars of the firmament by name and they respond: Here we are! They rejoice and shine with gladness for him who created them (Bar 3:34-35). Understanding these vocations is to discover the plan that God has for each of his creatures, and of every person. Nobody and nothing is useless: every person, every being has a function, a job to do.
“Out of Egypt have I called my son”—the Lord declares by the mouth of Hosea (Hos 11:1). Matthew (Mt 2:15) applies this prophecy to Jesus. Yes, he also has a vocation: to retrace the stages of the exodus, to overcome the temptations and to reach freedom with all the people.
And our vocation?
“God has called us with a holy calling” (2 Tim 1:9). He called us “through the gospel we preach, for he willed you to share the glory of Christ Jesus our Lord” (2 Thes 2:14).
The paths that lead to this goal are different for each of us. There is the way of one who is married and one who is celibate. There is the path of the saints and the sick, the widows, the separated ones, and of the engaged couples. What is important is to listen and discover where God wants to lead each one and “to live the vocation you have received” (Eph 4:1). “Angel of the Lord” is whoever supports the brother and helps him discern and continue along the path laid for him by God.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “Lord, what do you want me to do? Help me to understand and to realize your plan of love.”