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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - Finding Lasting Happiness

Robert Barron - Finding Lasting Happiness

Robert Barron - Finding Lasting Happiness
TOPICS: Happiness

Peace be with you. Friends, I don't like puritanism in any of its forms. What I mean here is the kind of fussy, dualistic system of religious thought that says we should just fly away from the goods of this world. I've always been with Hilaire Belloc, who famously said, "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, there's music and laughter and good red wine". You know? We're meant to enjoy the world that God has made. Genesis tells us that the world is good, the ensemble of what God has made is very good, and we're meant to enjoy it. So, I'm against puritanism in all of its forms. At the same time, no system such as puritanism would have lasted as long as it has, and it's present in the ancient world and all up and down the centuries still today, unless it were saying something true.

Now, what's the something that's true in it? And here we're on, I think, a major fault line of all of religion and all of spiritual experience. We live in this world of good things, but nothing in this world finally satisfies the deepest longing of our heart. We're in the world, immersed in it, all these good, pleasurable things, but yet the hunger of our heart is for something that transcends the world. And therefore we shouldn't be drawn utterly into the goods of this world. As I say, we're on a fault line here. And it's so important to hit both sides of this. A yes to the world, but also in a very serious way, a kind of no to the world. There's a restlessness and a longing in all of us.

See, think of the greatest experiences of your life. I mean the times of greatest triumph and sensual pleasure and of victory and of attainment. Think of the best moments in life. What do they all have in common? They all faded away. Right? You experienced them for a time, maybe very intensely, but then they faded away and you found yourself longing again. Just a few weeks ago, I was home in Chicago, and it was around the 4th of July. And from my hotel room, I could see, in the distance, the Chicago skyline. And I think it was July 3rd; they have a big fireworks display. So I could see, from a distance. And you see a firework go off, and there's almost nothing in the world more beautiful than that, this great burst of light in a sort of harmonious pattern.

And you say, "Ah, it's wonderful". And then what? It's gone, in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye. "Ah, look at it", and then it fades away. I think life, in many ways, is like that, isn't it? The best experiences we have are like a burst of a firework. Wonderful, and then it's gone, and we want something more. I go for walks on the beach sometime here in Santa Barbara, and there's a section of the beach where they let the dogs run free. And I always think it's an image of heaven. What I mean is, when the owner takes a tennis ball or something, they throw it, and the dog with reckless abandon just runs after it, on this beautiful day, and the dog is exercising all of his physical powers, and he gets the ball triumphantly and then returns with a big smile to his master, and I think, "That dog right now is perfectly happy".

And he really is. He's just utterly thrilled, because he's attaining everything he could possibly want. And he doesn't have in him any further desire. He's attained what he's meant to attain as a dog. His desire is satisfying. Or speaking of dogs, maybe some of you know Jolene, who's the dog of our producer. She comes to the house once in a while. And Father Steve, who lives with me, makes a little dinner for her. And Jolene goes into this ecstatic dance. She twirls around in anticipation of the dinner. This little dog food dinner, this little nothing, but she's at the height of satisfaction, because that's all she wants. That's all she could possibly desire. That's why dogs, in their joy, to me, are an anticipation of heaven.

See, in this world, everybody, we'll never be that happy, because we've got a desire that nothing in the world can satisfy. Okay. Let me make this a little more specific. We get up every day and we go to work. There are some days, I'm sure, that you find your work really satisfying, the sheer intrinsic value of it, your sense of accomplishment. But even that, of course, fades away. And most days at work are probably more ordinary than that. And you say, "Well, yeah, but I don't go to work just for the good in itself. I go because I make money, and the money allows me to get food, and to pay for my house, and to seek entertainment, and so on".

You say, "Okay, okay; that's true. And those are all good things". But think of your house. No matter how beautiful your house is, eventually, you get a little tired of it. Eventually, it begins to fall apart and needs to be repaired. Maybe you see a house down the road that you actually like better, and your house seems kind of boring by comparison. We all know, eventually, that house is just going to be torn down. It'll fade away. That house, it's good, but it doesn't satisfy the deepest longing of your heart. It can't. Or think of, "Well, yeah, I go to work to get money so I can buy food". Well, yeah, I mean, food is great. We need it. And sometimes, we're not like Jolene, we're not like twirling around in ecstasy at our food, but I might enjoy a good meal and appreciate it. But let's face it, it takes, what, about ten minutes to eat your dinner, and then you're left with a few scraps and dirty dishes.

And maybe you feel a little bit of indigestion afterwards. I mean, your food is not designed to satisfy the deepest longing of your heart. Or think of, "I go to work to get money so I can seek entertainment". Okay. I love entertainment and music and movies and plays or whatever. And sometimes, you're very moved by these things, powerful, great film, great play, great concert. But then it's over, and you go home and say, "Okay, now I'm kind of bored again. And I'm looking for my next excitement". Everything in this world is evanescent; it all fades away. It's not meant to satisfy the deepest longing of the heart. Well, you say, "How about something more substantial like our relationships"?

Well, again, they're marvelous, our relationships, our friendships. Think of the most intense friendship, a married relationship. I mean, beautiful, reflective of God's love. Absolutely. Yes, indeed. Some of the best moments in life take place within these relationships. But relationships are all limited to some degree. We struggle with them. There are good days and bad days, ups and downs, and sometimes friendships fall apart. At the end of the day, we all know this, all of our relationships will end because we die.

You say, "Well, okay, what about when I receive honors? That's a great thrill". Yeah, it is. I've been privileged to be honored a few times in my life with an honorary degree or with an award or something. And it's lovely. Those are great moments. People say nice things about you, and they give you an award or they give you a diploma. Terrific. It's like the firework going off. Boom, isn't that great? And then? It's over. So, I have some of these things around my house, like these diplomas and awards and so on. Well, they're nice. They remind me maybe of the day when I received that, and that's a nice thing. But would I ever think for a second that these are satisfying the deepest longing of my heart? No way. No way. They're very superficial, very evanescent.

Sometimes you just feel almost deflated afterwards, because you had this sort of high, and then with that, it's over. No one's honoring me today. So, your hunger is stirred up again. Okay. Maybe you're wondering now, "Why is this bishop giving me this kind of downer of a homily today"? Well, first of all, it's not really meant to be a downer. It's meant to be spiritually realistic. We do live on this fault line. I'm not a Puritan; I don't like puritanism. This world is good. The ensemble of it is very good. We are meant to experience the joy of honors and food and drink and relationship and work and all these good things. But we're not dogs; we'll never be as happy as dogs. We just won't. They're an image of heaven. But in this life, we won't be as happy as dogs, because we've got something in us that pushes us beyond anything this world can offer.

And here's now why I'm talking about it today. Remember now, we're reading from the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, this marvelous reflection upon the Eucharist. Last week, I talked about the Mass, because John 6 begins with a sort of symbolic evocation of the Mass. Well, after Jesus multiplies the loaves and the people are filled up, they come looking for him. And now listen; here's something from our reading for today. "When they found him across the sea they said to him, 'Rabbi, when did you get here?' Jesus answered them and said, 'Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you".

I don't know about you, everybody, but that's like one of the most pivotal lines in the whole Bible. Listen again: "Amen, amen, I say to you... Do not work for food that perishes". Everything I've mentioned in this homily, that's all food that perishes. Good in itself, yes, like a firework going off. But it all perishes. Don't work for that, but rather "for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you". Now, what's he talking about? He's talking about the Eucharist. This is the only food that will satisfy you. Why? Because as Aquinas said, the Eucharist contains not just the power Christ, it's not merely a symbol or sign of Christ, but the Eucharist is "ipse Christus," is Christ himself.

And Christ himself is the only good that can satisfy us. Can you see now why, the Mass, during which the Eucharist is given to us as food and drink, is an anticipation of heaven? It's an anticipation even now of the satisfaction we will find in the presence of God. And that's why we do things like sing and dance at the mass. Think of the way we stand and we sit and we kneel and we gesture. Think of Jolene doing her little dance before the food comes. Well, in a way, that's what we're doing. We're anticipating even now the only food that can finally satisfy us.

The Eucharist, "oh, that's a nice symbol". If that's all it is, forget it. But if the Eucharist is "ipse Christus," is Christ himself, then the Eucharist is the only food that can satisfy the deepest hunger of your heart. And that's why Vatican II insists that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. That's why it's a tragedy that so many of us stay away from the Mass. Listen, running after all these good things of the world, fine, fine, but they're not going to satisfy your heart. Christ, "ipse Christus," alone can do that. So, don't waste your life hungering after this food that perishes. Rather, receive from Christ himself the bread of life. And God bless you. Thanks so much for watching. If you enjoyed this video, I invite you to share it and to subscribe to my YouTube channel.
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