It is said that the goal of each individual is to seek a happy life. The question that arises from this statement is: what constitutes a happy life? This is arguably the one question that has divided humanity for centuries. Can one find happiness in this life, specifically in created goods, comfort, security and bodily health? Or, as the Catholics claim, is happiness only found in the infinite good, which is God? Each individual will have to confront this question and ultimately decided: do I want to be a citizen of the city of men, or do I want to be a citizen of the city of God?
At any rate, I won’t spend too much time unraveling the questions above, because I know the answer for me is to be a citizen of the city of God. I will answer why I pursue this. I think every Catholic will have to deal with the following dilemma, this test of faith: is there a point to my pursuit of God? If you haven’t had this question yet, it will come. The life of a Catholic is hard: it is self-sacrificing, it is suffering, it is a battle against evil and temptation. It also feels and looks like evil always thrives, and those that seek the city of God seem to suffer constantly. What gives?
I think we often get hung up on the idea that the pursuit of God will result in both temporal and spiritual happiness. While it is true that living a virtuous life with the aim of attaining the infinite good leads to tremendous spiritual happiness, it often does not translate to temporal happiness. This is quite a struggle, and it is quite common to those in which the animal man reigns (the body), while the spiritual man is asleep (the soul).
One exercise that I have employed for myself in these instances is to imagine a life where I am fully integrated into the city of men. Where one has all goods, all comforts, all security, great health, and more. Sounds great right? Wrong. Have you ever gotten so excited about buying something, or perhaps going on a trip, and you ended up being less excited than you thought (or even disappointed)? This is the inevitable end of those who pursue happiness in temporal goods. If it were true that happiness consisted in the acquisition of temporal goods, why do some very wealthy people commit suicide? How can we say that happiness exists in the pursuit of temporal goods, when for some it leads to suicide? Could life be so happy that we want it end? Nope! Do you know what the end is for those who pursue the spiritual life to the end? True eternal happiness. All of those that pursued it are in heaven (or being purified first). They quickly understood the emptiness of the city of men, and pursued citizenship in the city of God. You see, in the instance of those who pursue the city of men, you see two outcomes: suicide or a natural death. While with the pursuit of the city of God, there is only one outcome: natural death. Why? Those who would commit suicide would be excluded from the city of God after all! Why on earth would I pursuit a good, in which the potential outcome at the end of my pursuit could be suicide? Unfortunately, whether the end for the citizens of the city of men is natural or through suicide, they both are lead to an eternal death in fire.
It seems that within our nature, if one believes in the soul, we have within us an insatiable hunger. In some ways this makes sense, the soul being immaterial and immortal, seems to always have a need for an end. The folly with those who give up the idea of a soul, and of God, believe that this insatiable hunger present in the soul can be satisfied by the finite goods of this world. Reality? Nothing temporal can lead to a lasting happiness. Yes, it can lead to a short temporal happiness but we usually get bored and need more. Remember your first time flying a plane? Exciting right? Remember taking your 20th flight? Kind of sucks for the most part doesn’t it? We simply get bored really quickly of anything temporal, and instead of filling it with the only thing that will satisfy it (God), we seek tirelessly to fill it with anything and everything BUT God! Why do all those that pursue the city of men not simply end their life? Quite simple really. For 99% of the citizens of the city of men, they foolishly hold onto a temporal good as the attainment of their happiness, yet by lack of resources, are unable to attain. Many would like to have nice cars, nice houses, but have to settle for less. However, that temporal desire is not yet satisfied and it gives them a false desire to attain. I believe many citizens of the city of men are like this, and they still live on to merely attain this temporal good. Perhaps it is retirement, and perhaps after retirement, travelling, and once travelling is done, some pursuit of rare artifacts which cannot be attain. Such blindness!
Now, God being good and all knowing is aware of this condition in us. It is for this very reason why we have blessed to receive grace through the Holy Spirit. We need constant help in order to turn away from the world and turn to Him Why is this? Humans left without the support of God will simply destroy themselves. It is really one of the reasons Christ came down: by His death and resurrection He has freed us from this tyranny. He has shown us the way, He provides us the means to attain this new happiness, but only if we believe in Him.
Anyone who has overcome great sin, or perhaps has some miraculous conversion knows this effect well. Sometimes it takes something drastic, like overcoming a great evil in order to see the great good that has helped you. It is as if you were blind your whole life, and now you can see. The result is pretty dramatic on the life of such a soul. The only desire now is to fully attain the infinite good. One almost becomes obsessed I suppose? Might not be the right word, but picture this: Where the pursuit of temporal goods will eventually lead to boredom, stagnation, perhaps even death, the pursuit of the infinite good leads to virtue, holiness and eternal life. The best part is, you can never stop pursuing God! He is always drawing us to Him, and we can always come to Him, but because of His infinite nature, we can never get to the point where we can say: I have had enough of God. Can’t happen.
Take a look at your own life. Lukewarmness, sloth, and tepidity are great evils present in many Catholics today. The body reigns supreme, while the soul is beaten, tied up, and left in a corner to die. We have been given the help to overcome this state, but violence needs to be done to reestablish the right order. It will take time, it will require a lot of grace, but it can be done.
Blessed Mother, pray for us!