Nowadays everyone talks about happiness. If you have the latest model car, you’ll be happy. If you get that apartment at the beach, you’ll be happy. If you get that promotion at work, you’ll be happy. And just like that, many other situations. Do you really think things and success can make you happy?
Saint Teresa of Jesus went through a time of conversion even after consecrating her life to God as a Carmelite sister. Like many others, she also placed her hope on temporary things, without focusing on the eternal God she followed, but one day, years after entering the convent, Jesus touched her heart and she responded with generosity. Her life forever changed after that encounter. We can all allow God to encounter us and at that moment, your gaze will rest upon the things that really matter.
The following is a prayer by Saint Teresa of Avila in which she summarizes her experience in seven tips to find true happiness and hold on to God – the most important thing in life.
Disturbance begins when you only focus on earthly things. The soul becomes restless. There is no peace. I search, but I can’t find it. Has this happened to you before? If you’re someone who goes to Sunday Mass, you pray the Rosary and say your daily prayers and this happens to you, don’t worry because this is normal. Jesus’ invitation through Saint Teresa is to raise our thoughts to him. This means leaving behind an earthly vision to see everything that happens through the glasses of faith. Jesus has space in his heart for you to leave anything that troubles you- wars, conflicts, hate. Leave your worries in his hands. Let nothing disturb you. Deal with your present, pray and watch God take care of everything. Once you place everything in his heart you’ll free yourself of earthly things and you’ll gain strength to face the world, but you need to leave things in his hands, that is faith, that is trust in God. He created the universe, leave it all in his hands and lift up your gaze to heaven.
“Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” Luke 24: 38-39
We follow Jesus, and our hope is placed in him. It takes courage to be Catholic. It’s not easy to defend our faith in a society that is almost void of values. We don’t impose our views, we light up the darkness with truth. Great is our mission! Do we truly believe this? Holding our heads high, knowing we’re on the right path is to have courage for this fight that uses other weapons: love, forgiveness, truth, faith. That’s why, when you announce Christ to others, don’t worry about what they will say or think because it’s your heart that they will see. Let nothing in life frighten you. Fear is like Morphine, it numbs and some paralyzes. When you have Jesus, you don’t need Morphine because we can face anything by his side. Come what may, nothing will separate me from the Lord’s side. This is a grace we must ask for. Never end prayer without asking the Lord for the grace of fortitude.
“What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8: 35, 37-39
Look around you. What do you see? Do you perceive the “glory of the world”? Money, transactions, shopping, sales, fame, success, acknowledgment, power. This is a hollow glory. What is it good for? Can you take it with you after your death? All of this perishes. Imagine spending 80 years trying to reach fame, success, money, and then when you finally have it… death. You worked in vain. Were you able to enjoy it? This is why the world’s glory is empty. It’s not good for much. On the other hand, fighting to reach the eternal glory to be with God has real value. We have to rid ourselves of the stereotype that being Catholic is to be repressed or enslaved to laws or norms. That’s a lie the size of ship! The closer you are to God, the more freedom you have. The more detached you are of the things of this world, the more freedom you will have. The farther away you are from temptations, the more you freedom you will have. You can’t get lost! May the vain glory of this world be an example for you to find real, heavenly glory, that glory that is worth fighting for; glory that will truly make you happy here on earth and will be contagious to others without you knowing.
“For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4: 17-18
Many people think God is like ice cream that I can choose to my liking. I want a scoop of chocolate and strawberry with chocolate sprinkles on top. If you don’t get what you want, you don’t pay and don’t eat it. Well, God isn’t like this. God is a father, and fathers don’t always give us what we want, they give us what we need. A father knows what’s best for his children because he knows them. Because he loves his children, a father corrects his children and from time to time nags them. A father always wants what’s best for his children. How much more does God love us? Again and again we look for him to do what we want, asking him for miracles, but God isn’t a factory that does things to your liking. Sometimes you have to wait because someone else got there before you did. When you think God is no longer by your side or he doesn’t notice you, you must know God he is always present in your life. Every breath you take is guarded by him. Trust him. Let him mold and correct you. He will always give you what you need, but not always give you what you want.
“You have also forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons: “My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.” Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons. For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline?” Hebrews 12: 5-7
Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit that some have forgotten. Innovation and technology make things express. We want things now! Waiting isn’t very popular. They say patience is the science of reaching peace, being at peace with ourselves, others and God. It’s waiting without anxiety, knowing everything has its timing. But it’s really hard. Again, here’s the same tip: we must ask God for this fruit. There is no love without patience. With trust and faith we can be sure we can achieve anything. “I want to have a better relationship with my wife.” Patience. “I would like to change my weaknesses.” Patience.
“I don’t know what to do with my brother who is very rebellious.” Patience. Patience is very important, of course, without setting aside faith, hope and love, but always with patience.
“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it. But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.” James 1: 2-6
Two things to point out here. First, we cannot allow sin to become an obstacle in reaching God. Never! We must not allow sin to sink us in the murky puddle of desperation. If you sin, repent, and confess, God will forgive you. Start over again repenting of your sin, but don’t ever give up. There is something you must know that Pope Francis has said many times, never dialogue with the devil. Lift your head high and continue your journey. With God by your side evil will not win. Second, for a Catholic, God is his treasure. If you believe this, you won’t go looking for gold nuggets in a muddy river. Imagine a treasure chest filled with beautiful jewels and precious pearls, well much more than that is God for us. God is the greatest! Come what may, in him I find my happiness and I lack nothing. I don’t envy anything from anyone else, and what’s more, I can share this treasure with those around me and I will never run out. Who wouldn’t be happy with a treasure like this. It’s not a story or a fable, it’s real. Being God your treasure, you will lack nothing.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” Matthew 6:19-21
Where do I find my security? In the bank, a company, fame, money? As previously discussed, this all fades. If you lived on the street, with nothing, no telephone, no clothes, no luxuries or comforts, would you still love God? That’s it! Even if you lose it all, you should still remain faithful to God. Sometimes we have one foot in church and the other out in the world. Our steps must be firm. When our only security is God, our lives change – they transform. Who cares about material things? Who cares whether I have this or that? The only thing I need is to have the Lord by my side! God alone suffices! Only God can fill our hearts, only he can fulfill us. Is this too difficult to understand? God has given us everything! Even then we complain. Put on the glasses of faith and take a step towards God, that’s our next goal. Take that step!
“More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, depending on faith to know him and the power of his resurrection and [the] sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ [Jesus].” Philippians 3: 8-12
May these 7 tips of Saint Teresa help us to see the small details in life, the things that truly matter. Let’s fix our gaze upon the Lord. Catholics are sustained in their faith by knowing they are loved by God, that they have experienced his mercy through those around him or her. If our gaze were fixed upon God, this would be a different world. Let’s rejoice in being God’s instrument. Keep faith alive, hope constant and love burning, saying with Saint Teresa, “Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you, all things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices.”
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