Happiness, the True Goal of Christian Morality
Often our society portrays Christian morality as something negative, a series of don’ts: Don’t kill… don’t miss Mass on Sunday… don’t lie or steal… In other words, don’t have any fun…
When morality is perceived as a list of arbitrary rules that only serve to restrict and control our lives then it is not very attractive… in fact, it is quite repulsive. In reality, Christian morality is a positive affirmation of love. It is the map that guides us to our goal, which is to know, love, and serve God in this life, and to enjoy a deep, happy, intimate relationship with Him forever in heaven.
Why Be Moral?
Morality is a way of living and not just a set of rules. True morality manifests what it means to be human, what fulfills our life and gives it meaning. Morality is our life’s goal: to be happy.
For Christians Christ is that way, the way of love, the way of blessed happiness, the way to be holy even as God is holy.
Happiness then should be everyone’s goal—we have a right to pursue it. But happiness seems so elusive, perhaps because we pursue it in the wrong ways.
How NOT To Be Happy
In an interview, Pope Francis identifies behaviors that really undermines happiness: some think they will be happy by controlling or trying to please others; some by withdrawing from others so as to not be hurt by them; some anxiously fill their lives with activity, rushing around in pursuit of fun or accomplishments; some seek happiness in possessions and consumerism; some fill their lives with news and entertainment, killing precious time and communication with family and friends; some are so down on themselves that they seek relief by cutting down others; some try to overcome their insecurities by manipulating others to their own beliefs, instead of trying to attract them to the truth.
One may try to pursue happiness by engaging in these behaviors, but they only cause angst and sadness instead. So the Pope encourages us:
- “Live and let live,” in other words, “Move forward and let others do the same.”
- Give of yourself to others, with generosity and openness, sharing your possessions with those in need.
- Live life calmly—like a pool of water, not a rushing river—moving with kindness and humility that exudes calmness.
- Enjoy the pleasures of art and literature, and of playing and singing with children. Turn off the TV.
- Make Sunday a holiday, because it is for God and family.
- Find meaningful and dignified work for all, especially young people. People don’t just need food, but also the dignity that comes from bringing home food from one’s own labor.
- Enjoy, respect and take care of God’s gift of nature, human life, and sexuality.
- Be positive.
- Attract others to the truth of Faith, respecting others and their freedom of conscience.
- Work for peace, which is always proactive and dynamic, making society into a warm family environment.
If we strive to love like a little child—like the child Jesus—then our lives will share his happiness… the happiness of Christmas… of the first Christmas. We will also discover that morality is not about following rules but a way to a relationship that will fill and fulfill our lives.
 Viva (July 27, 2014).
Fr. John R. Waiss
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