Monday, November 27, 2023
Fr. Eduardo Barrios, SJ
In 2012, the United Nations declared that every March 20 should be celebrated as the International Day of Happiness. In 2018, the World Happiness Summit was held in Miami. Although it is a topic of universal interest, it is nothing new.
On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence of the United States had already affirmed that the "pursuit of happiness" was among the inalienable rights of humankind.
The topic has led to the development of the annual Happiness Index. For years, Costa Rica has been the happiest country in Latin America, although it has lost ground in recent times. Globally, the United States ranks 15th in happiness, while Finland has been at the top for five consecutive years. The forested Baltic country has a social welfare system that guarantees adequate income, education, health services, and quality housing. It also has other incentives, such as a low crime rate and less government corruption.
There are, however, Finnish facts that are not mentioned, such as the death of many young people due to drug use, as well as a suicide rate higher than the world average.
Suicide and happiness do not seem to be compatible. It is clear that a high standard of living is not enough, but that meaning must be found in human existence, something that includes facing that spoilsport or scarecrow which is death.
If everything ends with death, why so many efforts to build a better world? For many, the grim reaper throws us into the abyss of nothingness, and that creates suicidal depression.
But for many others, for those of Christian faith, death opens the door to something infinitely better than this temporal life.
The Second Vatican Council teaches that man "rightly follows the intuition of his heart when he abhors and repudiates the utter ruin and total disappearance of his own person. He rebels against death because he bears in himself an eternal seed which cannot be reduced to sheer matter" (Gaudium et Spes, No. 18).
Indeed, human beingsare made of something more than biological matter; they enjoy an immortal soul, empoweringthem for a happy destiny beyond the frontiers of earthly misery.
The Preface of the Funeral Masses reads: "In him the hope of blessed resurrection has dawned, that those saddened by the certainty of dying might be consoled by the promise of immortality to come. Indeed, for your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended, and, when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven."
The Liturgical Year comes to an end in November. The Church takes advantage of the occasion to remind us of the eschatological doctrine of death, judgment, purgatory, glory and damnation. The seriousness of death lies in its unrepeatability. "It is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment" (Heb. 9, 27).
On the last three Sundays of the Church year, the Liturgies of the Word teach that death is not to be improvised. The final Gospels bring parables from Jesus according to St. Matthew, calling us to take life seriously. Our actions today have consequences for an eternal tomorrow. The parables encourage us to be responsible and vigilant in order to detect and reject anything that could lead us to turn our backs on God. We must cooperate with divine grace in order not to succumb to atheistic impiety and selfishness in human relationships.
If death is to lead to a happy passage towards eternal communion with God, we must prepare ourselves with a holy life, which is expressed in filial love for God and in fraternal love for all others.