A cognitive researcher, Nancy Etcoff, believes that “the pursuit of happiness is obligatory.” She theorizes that “We are wired to pursue happiness; not only to enjoy it, but to want more and more of it.”
True enough, Amazon.com has got over 2,000 titles of books with advice on the 7 habits, 9 choices, 10 steps, 12 secrets, and 14,000 thoughts that are supposed to bring happiness (Etcoff, 2004).
Some believe that they can actually increase their happiness through medication. Hence, there are more than 120 million prescriptions for anti-depressants (Etcoff, 2004).
On a purely experiential level, is it not true that we look for and, perhaps, even pursue individuals, endeavors, hobbies and whatnots that make us happy while we tend to avoid those which cause us pain and sadness?
Article 92 of our Constitutions tells us not just to imitate the virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary; or to marvel at her fidelity at the hour of the cross; or just to follow her way of prayer. In concrete terms, we are also asked to contemplate and imitate her joy which is real, authentic, and genuine because of her experience of God.
Because she encountered God, she no longer remained the same, even as gold touched by fire cannot not be different. The smoldering flame not only tests it, but also removes its impurities and transforms it.
Upon being greeted by the Angel, Mary’s happiness is initiated and cascades upon the people she meets along the way.
I think of her cousin Elizabeth and the baby John the Baptist in her womb whose joy they couldn’t be contained because no less than the mother of their Lord visited them.
I think of the overjoyed newlyweds at Cana in the Gospel according to St. John who witnessed the first miracle of Jesus, thanks to the mediation of the Blessed Mother.
I think of the first Christian community who must have been both nourished and edified immensely by the example of the Mother of Christ.
Upon arriving in Calauan last week, we received the bad news that a former driver of the community committed suicide by using a piece of electric wire to hang himself. When his relatives forced open the door of their toilet, he was already lifeless. His feet could touch the floor; but he chose to kneel down in order to not support himself. He was already determined to meet his end.
Not having fully recovered yet from that news we were not aware that something else would come our way. The following day, Sunday, it was already past midnight when a mother’s loud cries broke the silence. She was asking for help. Her 14-year old daughter was stabbed seven times at the back and she was brought to site 2, where the convent is for some assistance.
We were told that heart was still beating when she was brought to us, but it was already too late for her when she was rushed to the hospital. She was dead on arrival.
I found myself asking, nay begging, for some wisdom from the Blessed Mother so that, somehow, she can help me grasp why these things have to happen. And if indeed, she really is the Help of Christians, what nature of help did she extend to these hapless individuals?
When I arrived back in site 2, after assisting in the Mass held at site 1, I got the answer to these questions.
It was shown to me in the countenance of the young people who seemed so happy in the company of the brothers who were assisting them. They were cheerful, their laughter sounded real, and as much as I tried to check some traces of fear in them, I couldn’t find any.
I am sure that they learnt of the news that one of their friends died a gruesome death. And if security in the neighborhood will not improve, one of them could be the next. But I could read from their faces that they’re least bothered; mindless of the danger that may just snatch their life away. They’re simply happy.
I found it really good to be with them, for unbeknownst to me, they were teaching me the value of trust and hope in the midst of a terribly frightening situation.
That time, it hit me as to how daring I could be in remonstrating with the Blessed Mother as to the role she played in those difficult times, when in fact, I was reminded that she herself was no stranger of what it was to undergo pain; her only Son suffered a cruel death.
And yet, she didn’t confront God or at least, it was not too important to be put on record; consistent with how she obeyed when the Angel relayed to her the good news of her divine conception, she maintained her serene, trusting composure.
After all, God remains in control.
And opening herself to God’s will, she was always happy to fully consent to His arrangements.