Once, during a trip with a buddy of mine, I ran into a young woman I hadn’t seen in years. She was beautiful on the inside and out, and it was nice to catch up with her for a few minutes. That evening my friend asked me, “Do you mind if I ask you a question? What’s it like to be a priest and know you could have married a beautiful woman like that?” It was a great question and I said, “I feel great. That’s because I gave up a good life for a better one. I don’t regret it at all, not being married. Because I’ve found a deeper happiness.”
We’re all designed to be happy. Every single thing we do is done because we think it’ll make us happy (E.g. Eat, sleep, work, do sports, spend time with friends. We choose friends based on what makes us happy.)
But can we tell the difference between different levels of happiness? Some things are fun, like eating, but others are more fun, like eating with people we love. Some things are fun but leave us empty, like getting drunk. Do you know why we buy things? Because it makes us happy… but only for a moment, and then we need to buy something new, something else, because it doesn’t last.
Who hears like to go to Confession? Nobody. But we all know how good it feels to come out of Confession, don’t we? Is it fun? Yes, if you’re a freak. But, for most people, it’s not fun, but it gives a peace that is deep, that lasts for a long time, and is better than any party and better than buying anything.
During the interview after Trevor Linden’s last game, Kelly Hrudey said he knew it was time for him to retire because “the wins never felt as special anymore, and the losses never hurt as much.” That’s so wise and such a great insight! For hockey players, winning and losing is like life and death, but, when they mature, they realize there’s more to life than hockey, and that it’s just a game (though the best game in the world!). There’s a deeper happiness than winning.
(start the video at 1:30)
Can we tell the difference between different levels of happiness? Because I don’t just want instant gratification, which is good, because, after a while, it gets boring and leaves me empty. I don’t just want achievement, which is good, because there’s got to be more, more than education, making money, and being successful. I don’t just want to help people, which is great, because I’m still not fulfilled. I want to be peaceful, joyful, fulfilled!
Today, Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field… a pearl of great price.” “In his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field… He went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Mt 13:44-46).
I gave up a good life for a better one, a happy life for a happier one. I gave up marriage, because I found something better, something that made me happier. Marriage is amazing, better than we think, if we understand God’s plan for it! But there’s something even better: being with Jesus. There are moments in prayer that are too good to describe. Like Confession, these moments aren’t fun, but are experiences that touch my soul and give me a joy that’s worth selling everything to get.
I realize that I was designed to be a priest, because another deep joy for me is seeing people grow closer to God, to see people happy, when they come out of Confession, when they realize God’s forgiveness and get healed, when they realize how much God loves them, when they find their purpose, when their lives are improved.
Being with Jesus, being a Catholic, is a pearl of great price that it’s worth giving up our old ways for better ways. God only asks us to sell pearls of lesser value, to give us pearls of greater value.
Let me end with an inspiring letter, of a friend who wrote his daughter when she wanted to move in with her boyfriend (cohabitation is wrong because the temptation is so great that it’s assumed they’re having sex outside of marriage, and so it’s a scandal). This letter was written by someone who did a complete 180-degree turn in his life, and made God the centre of his life. He gave up his old life for a better life, and this letter shows that he found a happier life, which is full of truth and love.
The day you came into this world… I was the first one to hold you, carry you, touch you, and see your… eyes gaze up to meet my own… We had a brief moment that I shared with you prior to presenting you to your mom. That moment changed me. That moment made me a better man. That moment made me experience love like I never understood love before.
You have come to ask of me to assist you with moving in with [your boyfriend]. This is such a painful request you are asking of me.
You see, that day God made me a dad, I was called to love you like I have never loved anyone one else before. My love for you is never-ending, undying, self-sacrificing and unconditional. My love is to protect you from physical, mental, and emotional pain as well as give you sound advice that, although you tell me not to share my opinion with you, I know that you will take it to heart. I will always love you no matter what mistakes you make. You are and will always be my little girl even when you have a boyfriend, or get married, or become a mother yourself, or even if you move to the other side of the world. This love started from the moment I first held you in my arms, and it never dies.
I want you to know today that I still love you…. I want you to see that love in my eyes, in my smile on my face, and in the warmth of my hugs (and kisses that you deny me to give to you). You are so valuable to me.
I must tell you again; My love for you is unconditional. This means that I am always trying to do what is best for you; even if it upsets you (encouraging good morals and discipline is hard work). I want to protect you. I need you to know that I am fighting for you right now. I want you to remain a part of my life, your mom’s life…. I want you to… reconsider some of the choices you are making… I want to provide a safe, healthy, loving environment that will let you flourish into the woman you are becoming…
I need to tell you [and your boyfriend] something and I am not going to mince words. I do not believe moving in together is in both of your’s best interests. [Then he addresses her boyfriend:] As much as you might believe the opposite, having my daughter move in with you… is disrespect[ful] to her and to yourself. Moving in together is a great responsibility on many levels. But most importantly is having my daughter live with you upholding her dignity, her beauty, her preciousness as a woman? How will you be able to provide for her, protect her, but most importantly stay by her faithfully and give her the love she truly needs, desires and wants…? Is what you are both proposing a love that is free, total, and faithful? These are question you both need to ponder and truly give time to reflect and answer to one another and to us as well. If you really love each other you will start to openly engage in these types of questions and try to uncover the truths behind them and act responsibly by upholding these truths.
[To his daughter:] I have failed you… I did not talk to you about this sooner or properly. I did not provide you with this level of love and respect. In the past I did not stand up to these values that I hold so dearly and deeply in my heart for you. You deserve the best from me and I want to give that to you right now and you can expect me to follow through with this promise going forward. I want to be a father to you, who is strong, courageous and protective.
This is what the pearl gives. I want to find more of this pearl. I’m going to renew my search for deeper treasures in God.
If all of us loved like this, we would change the world, our families would be happier, and people would be banging down our church doors because they would want to be with us.
I gave up a good life for a better life, a happy life for happier one.