WAY TO HAPPINESS
Sr. Veritas Grau, FSP
To set goals
for one's life is part of the human reality. And the ultimate goal one seeks
is a life of fulfillment, of happiness, whatever meaning one attaches to these.
It is also an accepted fact that to reach life's ultimate goal is not an automatic,
instinctual process. One needs guidance, models, means, skills to be able
to choose the right path and pursue it.
A visit to any
bookshop will show this enduring human preoccupation about the way to fullness
of life. There is usually a large selection of books and other material that
offer suggestions on how to improve one's life and that of others. Self-help
manuals abound on every conceivable topic, from developing more healthy eating
habits to winning friends, relating better with one's spouse, succeeding in
one's career, making a million quickly -- all the way to learning how to align
one's chakra centers and how to reach the heights of contemplation. There
is no lack of biographies of leaders and gurus who have mastered the secrets
of the universe and offer to initiate disciples into their way.
If the first
meaning of 'master' is 'teacher', one who knows the truth, this is closely
linked to the second meaning of 'master' as guide, expert, model, and mediator,
that is, as one who "knows the way." And the person who not only
knows something but has the 'know-how' to attain some desired goal, art, skill,
expertise, is a power figure. We would be lost without him, we could not achieve
what we desire, our talents would lie unused or undeveloped. And we would
be at his mercy. He can command the price for the guidance he can give.
In John's account
od the Last Supper, Jesus Master repeats over and over that true happiness,
"eternal life" is to know the Father, to come to the Father and
relate to him in love. And the way to that is to be found only in him, the
Son. He not only knows the way to the Father and therefore can guide us rightly
on our journey; he is, himself, the Way. He is the road, the connecting link
between the Father and ourselves, the repairer of the breach created by sin,
the sole Mediator. He is also model and mold for our life, the example we
are to follow and pattern our lives on. In an age that prides itself on having
specialists in all fields, he is the supreme expert on the most important
art of all -- the art of living. All of this makes Jesus Master Way very powerful
But here again
we must remember the kind of power this Master wields. He sharers the secrets
of his way freely, from hilltops and plains, by lakeshores and in places where
people congregate, in the temple precincts as well as in private homes. He
roams the length and breadth of the land and invites all to come to him and
learn how they can have life in abundance. Beyond all words, he reveals the
way in his very person, his attitudes, activities, and behavior.
But not everyone
was willing to walk the road he walked. Not everyone had eyes to see and ears
to hear the paradoxes of the beatitudes, which are the Magna Charta of his
way, but were too much for many. He said it himself: "Enter by the narrow
gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction,
and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult
is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Mt.
What does Jesus
Mater's way consist in? It consists simply in moving out of self-centeredness
and reaching out to others -- and above all to the Other, in love. And one
is to be faithful and consistent in this way, even when it is difficult. It
is a simple way, but we have experienced how our egoism resists the dying
that is involved. Jesus instead was faithful even to death, death on a cross.
The cross represents the peak of the Master's self-sacrifice. Jesus' way,
then, can be called the way of the cross.
There is no
getting around these words:"Whoever desires to come after me, let him
deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to
save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the
Gospel's will save it." (Mark 8:34-35).
There is an
old song still popular today, called "My Way." The lyrics celebrate
the person who has faced the hard blows of life and is now confronted with
death, but who stands tall, self-assured, with head "bloody yet unbowed"
and a smile on his lips, still in control. And his deepest satisfaction lies
in being able to affirm, in the face of "the final curtain," that
"through it all' I did it MY WAY." It has a noble ring to it, meant
to stir up a sense of admiration. But it does come close to proclaiming that
"I" and "my" way are the true secret of a happy. fulfilled
life. In contrast, there is a little dialogic poem by Alice Meynell that runs:
attained to Him."
"If to attain be to abide, then that may be."
"Endless the way, followed with so much pain!"
"The Way was He."
the poem is entitled VIA ET VERITAS ET VITA.