Monday, May 30, 2011

Happiness or Peace?

I have written previously about the profound wholistic understanding of the word "peace", shalom. Each week at mass we wish to each other this peace. It strikes me however, looking at today's gospel, that we have to distinguish between this state and what might more simply be called happiness. Then we need ask ourselves which of these we really want. By happiness here I mean that superficial, feel-good state that we have when things are going as we want, or think they ought.

One of the things that keeps Christianity from being more popular is that it doesn't promise to make you happy. It doesn't promise that if you're a good Christian you will be successful in the world. It doesn't promise that if you are a good Christian nothing bad will happen to you. Sure, there are a few out there preaching what is called "prosperity theology", but Jesus wasn't one of them. As the readings begin to focus our attention of the coming of the Spirit, Jesus warns his followers of persecution and death.

The good news is that he also promises the Spirit of Truth. In a world of constant spin, where we no longer know where to look to find simple factual information, Jesus promised to send the Spirit of Truth: truth about God, truth about what it means to be human, truth about our relationships to God, to each other, to the world in which we live. And when we are willing to embrace that truth, we may not always be happy, but we can live with a constant sense of inner peace beyond anything this world can offer.

Happiness is a good thing, something to be wished for, and something to be enjoyed when we have it. It is a fragile thing as well. It can be ripped away by a single event or sometimes even a single word. The peace of Christ, on the other hand, is an anchor, a foundation. When we allow ourselves to be enveloped in and filled with that Spirit of Truth, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit what can take away our peace?