Many of us don’t know what truly makes us happy, and even if we know, we are tempted to choose other things. Take for example the choice of food at each meal. How many of us are tempted to put more on our plate than we should eat? Some of us make the same mistake thousands of times in our lives. That is why we have the expression, “Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs.” When we put more in our plate than can fit in our stomachs, instead of feeling “fed” and energized, we feel bloated and tired. That’s the temptation of the amount, but what about the temptation of type? Which foods do we put on our plates? When there are vegetables, fruits, and meats; which do we choose? Whatever has the most grease? Whatever has the most sugar? We know that to truly feel good at the end of a meal, we have to eat a properly ordered diet; is this true with the totality of our lives?
Now God has made us for something more than a full belly; he has made us with the capacity for something greater. We are both physical and spiritual, body and soul. Our bodies have certain needs, and for these God gave us the goods of creation. He gives us food, water, shelter, and family. Furthermore he added to them a certain degree of pleasure. Because he is good, he made the satisfaction of our physical needs more enjoyable than biting into wax. Because he builds within the created order a certain degree of superficial enjoyment, do we think that he would make the created order the basis for his children’s happiness? No. There is a limit to the created order. Food expires, houses rot, and members of our family die. God wouldn’t create us reliant on such things for our happiness.
Instead of that situation which would make us all competitive and violent toward each other, God made us such that only he is the true object happiness. All his children can be happy, because he can give himself completely to all of them simultaneously. There is no limit to God and there is no expiration date. The wider we open our hearts to him, the more of him we receive, the happier we will be. The goods of creation are there to maintain our bodies, and yes being a good God, he made these pleasing for us. But they are not objects of happiness; greasy meats and sugary sweets do not bring life and energy; God himself and the spiritual things of God are what bring a human to true happiness.
Today’s Gospel shares this with us. The man who followed the commandments was invited to trade his worldly goods for Christ’s presence itself, for walking with him. The Gospel says, God alone is good. The man, chose not to accept Christ’s invitation, and chose instead the goods of creation. Surely the many possessions of the man brought some pleasure to him, for this is how God designed creation. But he failed to see that superficial delight was not the same as happiness. Superficial delight is not the same as the peace and joy of Christ. God himself, is the object of happiness; we receive this happiness as we walk with Christ. Jesus said even now, “in the present age” we can experience happiness, and then eternal life in the age to come.