Sunday, March 2, 2014

Joy vs. Happiness: why Christ is so much more filling than DQ Blizzards.

Have you ever thought about something once, and then it seems like that something comes up at least 46 times a day the following week? I hope so... or this is awkward... Anyway, that was me this week, thinking about the difference between joy and happiness. I'd never really thought about it much. I thought the two words were essentially interchangeable. But I've changed my mind about that, and here's why.

Dairy Queen Red Velvet Cake Blizzards. I don't know if you've ever had one, but if you haven't, you should probably hop in your car and head to DQ right now. (Just kidding, you should finish reading this first.) But for real, they're delicious. Every bite of vanilla ice cream with chunks of red velvet cake makes me so happy.

But unfortunately, after about 10 minutes, my Blizzard cup is empty. Lame. I'm happy for a little while longer, lingering on the thought of how stinkin' good that Blizzard was. But pretty soon, that happiness has passed, and I start looking for something else to fill that place of happiness — maybe it's a person, maybe it's reading a funny buzzfeed article about what type of sandwich I am, maybe it's watching another episode of Parks and Rec. Who knows. All that matters is that I'm constantly searching for something new to make me happy when the old happiness fades away or runs out.

That's what happiness is: something that makes us feel good for a short time. But before we know it, it's gone, and we're left with a feeling that we have to fill it's place with something better.

Now let's take a look at the other word I mentioned: joy. When have I experienced joy?

On Wednesday, at the Steve Moakler concert. He stood up on the stage with nothing but a mic and his guitar, singing one of his new songs called "Holiday at Sea," talking about how we just have no idea how spectacular Heaven is going to be. Hearing about and singing about what God has in store for us filled me with joy.

Last night, when I was in the chapel at St. Lawrence for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, surrounded by about 100 of my best friends and people I'd never met. We were all there for the same reason — to adore our God, thank Him for the awesomeness He's put in our lives, and ask Him for his guidance. I just couldn't help but smile and be filled with joy.

What do both of these experiences have in common? In the beautiful words of Pope Francis, "All these instances of joy flow from the infinite love of God, who has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ" (Evangelii Gaudium).

And the best part? After both of these experiences, I didn't feel like I had to go run and find something else to fill me up. That's because joy doesn't try to run away. It stays with us through anything and everything. It is always present. Just like Jesus Christ.

Sometimes we don't always feel that joy, but it's always there. Pope Francis says, "I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved."

Joy is always present, reminding us that we are loved by our amazing God. No matter how delicious those Red Velvet Blizzards are, the happiness they offer will NEVER compare to the lasting joy that Christ offers to us every single day in himself and the people he puts in our lives.

There is joy in your life. Never forget it.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Life. It's beautiful.

LIFE. It's beautiful.

Every single day, through the little things, God whispers to us, "Look at that. That is how beautiful the gift of life is."

He puts those moments in my life every minute of every day:

When I held Sara's baby, Emily Gianna, for the first time last week. She fell asleep in my arms, made funny faces, and even pooped on me. A beautiful life.

When my little brother jumped on my back and begged for a piggy back ride into the kitchen, yelling, "Faster, faster!" A beautiful life.

When my dad got home late because his flight home from Chicago got delayed, and he dropped his work stuff and kissed my mom right when he walked in the door. A beautiful life.

When my roommate Chelsea brought back homemade cookies from Christmas break and passed them out around the house just to spread some joy on a Tuesday night. A beautiful life.

When dozens of middle school kiddos at St. John's are clapping and singing "Love Will Hold Us Together" at youth group. Beautiful lives.

Every single life is beautiful.

And that is exactly why 500,000+ pro-lifers are participating today in the March for Life in Washington, D.C., the largest pro-life event in the world.

On this day, January 22, in 1973, the Supreme Court invalidated 50 state laws and made abortion legal in the United States with Roe v. Wade. Did they not recognize the beauty of every life? Did they not understand our responsibility to protect the beauty of life? Now, almost 4,000 unborn babies are killed every single day in the US.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: "God, the Lord of Life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes" (CCC 2271).

Without protecting life, we don't have any of those beautiful moments that life bring — the adorable babies, the piggy back rides, the kisses, the cookies, the singing...

So what do we do? We pray. For the warriors who are marching in Washington, D.C. today to fulfill the "noble mission" of fighting for the unborn.  For the government officials who hold the power to overturn these laws, that they might recognize the beauty and sanctity of every human life. For every unborn baby, that they get the opportunity to live the amazing life God has planned for them.

Life is beautiful. Life is a gift. Life is worth protecting.