On God’s recipe for happiness

Author: Jan Bilewicz

You certainly sometimes think of what your future is going to be like. You would surely like to finish school, perhaps graduate from college, find a good job, get married, start a family and have some success. And all this is to serve your happiness. Because you would like to be truly happy, wouldn’t you? Everybody likes to be happy. But not everybody is! Look around. Do you think that you will certainly be happy? I would very much like it to be so, but I also see many threats to your happiness …

How to achieve happiness?

When you have a great job, lots of money, a beautiful wife, a house and a Mercedes, will you be happy? Perhaps, perhaps not. Is it possible for a person who is, for example, a postman, earns PLN 1,500 a month, takes a bus or rides a bike to work, has several children and a wife who is not actually beautiful but is good and wise, to be happy? Of course, he may be the happiest man in the world! Happiness does not depend in the first place on how much pleasure and money or how many things one has. You may have a lot and be very unhappy. And, conversely, you may have little and radiate happiness. Do you have a specific recipe for happiness?

You must remember that sin, although it may offer some pleasure, always takes happiness away

Probably you have been baptized, confirmed and believe in God. (There are also baptized and confirmed atheists, even militant atheists. Certainly you can spot such people among your colleagues attending religion classes). You are a believer; that is to say, you believe in what the Bible says. And it says: “He who gives heed to the word will prosper, and happy is he who trusts in the Lord” (Prov 16:20). “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, … but his delight is in the law of the Lord …” (Ps 1:1–2). Only God gives happiness. I mean true happiness and not its mere surrogates.

You have property!

Do you remember the parable of the good father and the prodigal son from the Gospel according to Luke (15:11–32)? I shall recount it briefly for you. A man had two sons. They lived together a life of ease, peace and happiness. One day, the younger son decided to take his portion of the estate and leave for a distant land. It cannot be ruled out that somebody gave him the following idea: “You know yourself what is good for you. It is so boring here; real freedom is over there.” And it was “over there” that he squandered his money (with harlots, as his brother said). When he found himself in want, he hired himself out to feed swine, and in the end he was ready to eat what they ate … One day, he reflected on his life and remembered the safety and love that prevailed in his family home. He decided to return and make amends to his father.

This parable draws a universal picture that is always relevant. It tells the story of each of us. God is the father, we are his children. One leaves God through sin. Young people have some property. I mean spiritual property. These are real treasures: idealism, optimism, courage, disinterestedness, love of good, yearning for great values, willingness to search for the truth, etc. All this comes from God, doesn’t it? At the end of the day, only God is the source of all good.

One can, however, leave the Father and squander his property; that is, lose optimism, lose love for the truth and good, lose one’s ideals and a desire to attain them. What is left then? Spiritual misery, degradation and humiliation. The misery is illustrated by the image of feeding swine and the readiness to eat with them. This is a picture of the state of the soul in which each of us may end up.

Many young people, unfortunately, are at the stage of squandering their spiritual property. Usually, they have been tempted by propaganda spread by people who generally look quite decent: they are educated, eloquent and nicely dressed. It is still fun, they can enjoy themselves, and the balance of talents and ideals given to them by God is still large. But it does not grow. On the contrary, it slowly dissipates …

The parable has a happy ending. The son returned to his father, who gladly accepted him. The return was by no means easy. Because if you go far away, the return journey is long, and you are exhausted and drained.

For a pubescent boy, contact with pornography is like a hurricane passing through his weak and immature psyche

God has very many sons. More than one of them leaves, but not for all of them does the departure – as we can see ourselves – end as happily as in the parable told by Jesus. Some leave, squander their property and do not come back, although they could always do so. Are they too ashamed to admit their mistake? Are they afraid of meeting with the Father? Or perhaps they got used to “the feeding of swine and eating with them”? And now they even praise their lifestyle. “But we like it this way,” they say. “This is the best way. We have freedom, we do what we want.” They do not want to go anywhere and give lots of arguments for staying where they are. They seem to be genuinely glad to the extent that they ridicule those who have come to their senses and want to return. To the question if they are happy, they reply: “Yes! Yes!”

The greatest threat

God is the only giver of true happiness (both earthly and eternal). Through sin and by stubbornly persisting in sin, we turn our back on God, separate ourselves from him and leave the house of the Father. And what sins threaten a young man most? Threaten you? I presume that the sins of unchastity. Here, the temptations are the strongest. Perhaps it seems to you that it is in sex that your happiness lies … Wrong! Here, there is only a moment of pleasure. A moment of pleasure and lasting happiness are two different things, aren’t they? Are you after pleasure or happiness in life? You must remember that sin, although it may offer some pleasure, always takes happiness away. (Sex, of course, is not always sinful. In marriage, it may be very good, blessed by God and therefore bringing happiness; although spouses may sin against the sixth and ninth Commandments, too.). Among the sins of unchastity, perhaps the greatest threat to a young man is posed by pornography. Some say there is no harm in pornography or even that it is good. Proclaiming such opinions, they seem confident and content. (They, too, are equivalents of characters in the parable of the prodigal son. Where would you place them?).

And so the human heart is the battlefield where one fights for the truth and happiness. To win that fight, man must turn to Christ

So “there is no harm in pornography,” some say. Now, I will ask you two questions. Would you like your sister to get a role is a good film, for instance Anne of Green Gables? Of course, why not! And would you like her to perform in a pornographic film? Because there is no harm in it? … Of course, you would not like your sister to strip for the pleasure of some guys who want a turn-on. And even less so, for her to be a plaything of some vulgar macho, with those guys watching and enjoying themselves.

Pornography is addictive

For a pubescent boy, contact with pornography is like a hurricane passing through his weak and immature psyche. I shall tell you briefly what happens then. Pornography causes sexual arousal so strong that a teenage boy cannot cope with it. Even without it, it is hard for him. He cannot forget the images that he saw. They keep springing up in his mind, whether he wants it or not. To be frank, he does not always want to forget them, because they give him a pleasant sexual “high”. Unfortunately, it is addictive like alcohol or drugs. First, you cannot concentrate on something that had previously seemed important. Next, everything recedes into the background and seems unattractive and less important when compared to sex. You think less and less about ideals, plans or principles. Desire keeps growing and takes up ever more space in your thoughts, wishes and actions. They, in turn, become increasingly lascivious and perverted. Girls are viewed solely as playthings. In the US, 86 per cent of rapists admitted using pornography, while 57 per cent of sexual offenders imitate scenes they have seen in pornographic materials. These are not the only effects of watching pornography. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

Watching pornography entails other sins. If a boy watches it, he also masturbates. And this is supposedly the “freedom” everybody speaks about? That “modern lifestyle”? Learning how to relate properly to women? What does watching pornography teach? It teaches that a woman is there to arouse a man and give him sexual satisfaction. This type of education results in some people calling sexual addiction “sexual needs” and satisfying the habit of masturbation using a woman’s body “making love”. Do you think that your wife would be satisfied if you “made love” to her like that? Would you be satisfied with such a caricature of love?

The struggle for purity means a struggle for the truth and happiness. We need Christ’s power to win in this struggle

Chastity is a task

If you do not want to spend the rest of your life “in pasture”, you must learn to overcome lust. “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire …,” says the Bible (Col 3:5). To overcome lust is not easy. You live in the “culture of death” that wants to kill what is noble in you. Adults – politicians, journalists and various other “authorities” (mostly baptized and confirmed), who should care about your good – say that pornography must be available. It does not even occur to them to think what God thinks about it. They think they know everything best. “Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials,” says The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2354). So great is the evil of pornography! Not only for young people. For everyone.

You must not passively flow with the current of scum offered by the world. Let others, if they wish, continue living “in pasture”. You do not have to live like others. Although so much and so many will be against you, you are by no means doomed to failure. What should you do to win? Holy Father John Paul II once told young people: “Purity of heart is a task set to every man. He must continuously strive to oppose the forces of evil, those acting from the outside and those active inside – the forces that want to tear him away from God. And so the human heart is the battlefield where one fights for the truth and happiness. To win that fight, man must turn to Christ. He can only win when strengthened with his power …” (Sandomierz, 12 June 1999). Each word is very important here. Purity is a task. There are forces of evil active outside and inside us, which must be opposed. The struggle for purity means a struggle for the truth and happiness. We need Christ’s power to win in this struggle. Hence it is necessary to turn to him … How? Above all, in sacraments and prayer.

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