The price of happiness and of any authentic vocation is to believe in happiness based on what we truly are, on the faith that inhabits us and what we share with those who accompany us.
PUBLISHED ONNov 2020
Love is the source of our existence. We are created in it and we grow and exist in it. We are therefore unable to think of happiness without love. One thing seems to be directly linked to the other, and the idea of separating them is inconceivable. However, discovering and experiencing love is not always easy.
Pope Francis warns that love, like happiness, is not something static. On the contrary, love is dynamic–it requires action and, consequently, “a love that is generous and outgoing, that acts and takes risks, may at times make mistakes.” (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christ is Alive, n. 198)
The same is true of vocational discernment/discovery. The vocation that fully fulfills us and makes us truly happy is also not stagnant. Therefore, the vocational path is in danger of having stumbling blocks and of us making some mistakes along the way. However, that does not mean that we should be discouraged. On the contrary, life has to be lived and happiness cannot be avoided or blocked by the fear of making mistakes!
Feet Firmly On The Ground
The price of happiness begins to be paid when we force ourselves to think about our vocation with our feet on the ground. Chasing after butterflies–floating in illusions, in virtual desires for effortless happiness–leads nowhere; it is a waste of time! It is necessary to have the maturity to think of a truly fruitful happiness, different from a life of apparent happiness that simply does not fulfill us.
The pope makes a beautiful analogy about trees to explain the importance of having your feet on the ground when he says: “I have sometimes seen young and beautiful trees, their branches reaching to the sky, pushing ever higher, and they seemed a song of hope. Later, following a storm, I would find them fallen and lifeless. They lacked deep roots. They spread their branches without being firmly planted, and so they fell as soon as nature unleashed her power.”(Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christ is Alive, n. 179)
The happiness we seek is not a passing happiness, but a lasting one; it is not happiness without storms, but one that remains despite the adverse circumstances that life can bring.
For this very reason, we have to count on the people around us and, particularly, on those who accompany us, helping us to discern and take concrete steps in our vocation.
Often, when we think about the future, we are tempted to ignore the experience of others–especially the elders–sometimes because we believe that they understand nothing about our lives, and sometimes because our pride makes us think that we are self-sufficient. How wrong we are!
In fact, our whole life is the result of a legacy left by the elders (our speech, the way we eat, dress, etc.). This legacy from the past is a fertile land where our life–the seed of the vocation that we want to germinate and bear fruit–can be fully realized. To deny the advice of the elders, the help of those who accompany us, is to take the roots of the earth and fancy a life that is made of plans that will never be fulfilled–plans and dreams always postponed until later.
However, happiness does not just mean having our feet firmly on the ground–this could even lead to burying our head in the sand. Happiness implies always going beyond the horizon line; that is, it implies always going beyond what we can think or even imagine. (Ephesians 3,20)
Eyes Set On The Sky
Walking with our feet on the ground does not mean following anybody without thinking. Rather, it often means going against the current. Nowadays, there are countless voices that sell easy happiness: linked to the cult of eternal youth and the appearance of happiness–to the paths of fame, flashes and applause.
In this case, happiness is a matter of money (buying the right products) and a matter of luck (being in the right place at the right time to show off), but it is also a passing issue–it only lasts until the moment when someone younger appears, with more money and luck. Little by little, what should be our life project and our path of happiness becomes a chain of slavery of appearance, in which we stop being who we are to be what others want us to be.
To live your vocation is to dare to take “another way, one born of freedom, enthusiasm, creativity and new horizons, while at the same time cultivating the roots that nourish and sustain us.” (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christ is Alive, n. 184). It is to live what we are and what we want in the certainty that we are not alone, however great the difficulties and adverse the circumstances may be.
Only greater coherence in life can lead to consistent happiness–according to our dreams–and with no predefined “expiration date.” With our eyes set on the sky, the impossible becomes possible–not because we run after illusions, but because it is faith that moves us, a faith consistent with our humanity, abilities, limitations and weaknesses.
The price of happiness is to believe in happiness, starting from what we truly are and from the faith that inhabits us and we share with those who accompany us. “Roots are not anchors chaining us to past times and preventing us from facing the present and creating something new. Instead, they are a fixed point from which we can grow and meet new challenges.” (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christ is Alive, n. 200).
They do not confine us to a purely earthly experience; they lead to a fruitfulness that is only possible in God. What tree could survive without roots? None!
Human And Divine Dimensions
These are the inseparable dimensions of happiness and of every authentic vocation: the human dimension–which does not deny what we are and the past that we have–and the divine dimension–that which always puts us in relationship and true covenant with the Lord of happiness, the Lord who calls us and accompanies us in our vocational fulfillment.
This happiness takes into account its own dynamism–a dynamism that constitutes our humanity– and is always fruitful, profound and lasting. It is not corrupted neither by fear, nor by circumstances, nor by the passing of years. It exists and grows every day, despite the difficulties, mistakes and all the setbacks that life can present.