Why is it so hard to be happy?  Despite the great wealth and relative freedom that many in the Western world enjoy, happiness is elusive.  Watch any channel on t.v. and one is bombarded with all kinds of discontent; advertising that seeks to bring attention to unmet “needs”, people searching and competing for fame and wealth and attention, a continual news cycle that amplifies human selfishness as one abuses another.  In this age of “enlightenment”, the ultimate human enlightenment of simple happiness is elusive.

In the quest to quell the pain of discontent, people turn to psychologists who offer all kinds of “treatments” to cure, or at least alleviate, discouragement and depression.  These psychological treatments include approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy and the prescribing of anti-depressants.  TV “psychologists” and pop-gurus of all sorts diagnose and assert all kinds of advice to help the forlorn.  Despite man’s best efforts to treat the pain of being human, depression, suicide, substance abuse and other addictive behaviors are at epidemic levels.  Why can’t we all just be happy?

In today’s Gospel from the Mass (John 15:9-17), Jesus, the Divine Psychologist, gives Man the keys to true joy:

[9] As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.  [10] If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.  [11] These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.  [12] “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. [13] Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  [14] You are my friends if you do what I command you.  [15] No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.  [16] You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.  [17] This I command you, to love one another.

Jesus offers His Divine insight into the psychology of happiness:

  • Jesus makes it clear that He is giving Man the key to the ultimate happiness; joy: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
  • It’s important to note that Jesus considers Himself joyful (My joy may be in you…).  Often, Jesus is presented as a melancholy person, sorrowful and burdened; quite the opposite, Jesus is telling of His own joy.
  • Jesus is not talking about something fleeting or partial happiness; He is talking about something amazing and wonderful.  What Jesus is promising is His joy: can there be anything more joyful then the joy of God Himself?  This is a joy that is full, without room for more, a joy that lacks nothing and can’t be exceeded.  It is friendship with Jesus Himself (John 15:14).
  • What is the key to this kind of joy?   A life of love!
  • Jesus specifically links the gift of joy to those who keep His commandments.  Jesus asks for obedience (John 15:10,12, 17) to His commandments and links keeping His commandments to joy.  And Jesus’ “net-net” commandment is “To love one another.”
  • The commandment “to love” is not some pie-in-the-sky 1960’s “all you need is love” kind of love; it is a sacrificial love.  “Greater love has no man that this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  Of course, Jesus will go on to demonstrate this exacting kind of love shortly  in the Passion.
  • Jesus also making it clear that personal fruitfulness in love is key to joy: “…you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide…” One can not expect to find joy in self-indulgence or in the personal search for happiness; joy comes from self-giving, self-sacrificing love.

If you really wish for joy, turn to Jesus Christ, the Divine Psychologist.  He knows how the human mind works, what is broken and how to fix it; He created you, after all!

Only Jesus Christ can offer everlasting joy.  Ask Him.  He’ll respond.