by Rev. Albert F. Ernst, O.S.F.S.
A few days ago I picked up a book of the Gospels and read over the Gospel that I just finished reading to you. I did so in order to get a topic for todayís sermon. I found it rather difficult. As a matter of fact, I almost gave up. After I put the book away the thought came to me. Why not talk on happiness? Surely that man to whom God has given the faculty of speech and hearing must have been happy and so I decided to speak on happiness. Today, it is the will of God for you to listen to the topic. However, you must not make the blunder and think that because the man referred to in the Gospel was given the priceless gifts of speech and hearing, that he was perfectly happy. Such was not the case. Perfect happiness cannot be found in anything outside of God.
God made man to be happy here and happy in eternity. In every human soul that yearning for happiness is the great driving force and motive of action and of life.
Take for example a child playing at itís motherís knees. He wants to be happy. He forms his ambitions that by which happiness will be gained. He wants to grow big and get out with the other boys. He dreams of the day, when, a little older, he will be off to school with the other boys and girls. Have you seen him on the day when he first starts out? He thinks his ambition is reached. He goes to school cheerful and happy with a smiling face and expectant eyes. A few days of wonder or at the most several weeks and his happiness is gone. He has grasped the ambition for which he dreamed and school may become a chore, perhaps a drudgery, a thing to shirk. Does he stop here? Oh no, the human soul still yearns for happiness. He builds himself a new ambition, year by year he toiled on; he wants to finish school to get out into the world to become a man and take his place in the affairs of men.
Have you seen him on the night when his school days are ended? Commencement day, a day full of promises, of a glorious future. He has reached the point for which he has dreamed for all these years, his graduation, a simple night of triumph. His friends applaud him; relatives greet him with smiles and congratulations. His brain has built up castles for the future. Perhaps he even reads a paper at graduation on some such topic as, ďNeeds of the Modern World.Ē He feels himself a power. Now to be a man amongst men and go out into the world. Hopefully he steps forward before a smiling audience of friends to receive his diploma. His happiness is complete, just for the day.
He has reached his ambition. He thought he would be happy when his school days were ended. He thought it would be a glorious thing to be a man. Have you seen him the day after graduation? His school days are over. His childhood is gone forever. He is a man. He takes his first stop, as it were, out into the world and finds himself a stranger. He thought he had finished. He has only begun.
Does he give up? Oh, no! Within his soul, God put a yearning for happiness. He forgets the years of boyhood toils. He must begin all over again and learn in the school of a man. He makes his resolution. He will be a doctor, perhaps a lawyer, perhaps even a priest. He will startle the world with his learning. And so, he begins anew. He goes off to a college, begins way down at the bottom again to plod his weary way to the top. But, he has a new ambition so he starts in. One year, two years, three and four; he studies and struggles, strives and wins at last. Another graduation. Only to find that he has another two, three or four years to go. But finally he attains his goal. He is a doctor or lawyer. Is he happy? He thought that education was the cure-all for all ills. For years he dreamed that education was a golden key to open the doors to happiness. Now, he has an education and finds what? He finds that he is but one of another army of strivers. He finds that the profession, instead of distinguishing him amongst men, has but placed him again at the bottom of a new world. He must begin at the bottom and win his way in the profession that he has chosen.
He leaves home and begins the task of winning fame in the line that he has chosen. And so it goes on all through life, yearning, ever striving, but no sooner grasped than we find we have been chasing a shadow and happiness is still beyond.
My dear friends, canít you see what Iím getting at? If God had given him the whole world, his soul would still long for something he did not possess. It is the liveliness of God within us, the soul, which will never be satisfied until it possesses everything in knowing God face to face and in loving Him. Since that is the case, why not concentrate on knowing and loving God now. He wants you to do so. So do you. You must, that is why He made us. Remember, millions of people have placed their chips on every number that the world has to offer in their gamble for happiness, and they have always been wrong. We will never be wrong if we place our chips on Godís number.