by Father Mark Goldasich
Leave it to Pope Francis.
In my last column, I wrote about making resolutions for the new year. What took me 616 words to say, the pope did it in two: Be happy.
Shortly before Jan. 1, a Facebook post presented “A New Year’s Resolution List by Pope Francis” that contained 10 items, culled from what the pope has said over the years. Honestly, though, the last item — “Be happy” — encompasses the other nine.
This is a theme the pope has referred to often. In the first year of his pontificate in 2013, Pope Francis issued “The Joy of the Gospel” that warned Christians to avoid the temptation to become “sourpusses” (No. 85). And the pope reiterated in December 2014: “You have never heard of a sad or gloomy-faced saint.”
Due to the pope’s suggestion, I scuttled my previous, planned resolutions for 2022 in favor of: “Be happy.”
Apparently, this idea of happiness was knocking around in my mind long before the new year. Because I still enjoy sending pen-to-paper, physical cards and notes, I also like to “dress up” the envelope with stickers front and back to bring a smile to the recipient’s face.
Of late, these have included sparkly smiley faces, envelope seals that read: “Take time to make your soul happy,” and anthophila-themed stickers that say: “Bee happy.” (By the way, don’t take time to look up “anthophila”; it’s the scientific name for “bee.”)
So, what are those other nine resolutions of the pope? Here they are:
1. Don’t gossip.
2. Don’t waste food.
3. Make time for others.
4. Choose the “more humble” purchase.
5. Meet the poor “in the flesh.”
6. Stop judging others.
7. Befriend those who disagree.
8. Be faithful to your promises.
9. Make it a habit to “ask the Lord.”
If you can “be happy,” then all these others will fall into place. You won’t feel the urge to compare yourself to others or demean them. You’ll see food as a precious gift that many in the world lack. In meeting the poor personally, you’ll seek ways to lift their spirits and burdens. In buying things, you’ll be content with getting what you need, not necessarily what you want. In encountering enemies, you’ll seek to establish common ground. Being faithful to your promises will bring peace of heart. And in prayer, in “asking the Lord,” you’ll discover the true source of happiness.
But is being happy enough to help you into heaven? I’ll let this story answer that:
There was once an Irishman who died suddenly and appeared before the Pearly Gates, feeling extremely uneasy. There was a line ahead of him, so he decided to look and listen. After consulting a big book, Jesus said to the first in line, “I see here that I was hungry, and you gave me food. Good man! Go on into heaven.” To the second, he said, “I was thirsty, and you gave me drink,” and to a third person, “I was in prison, and you visited me.” As each was sent into heaven, the Irishman grew more fearful, as he’d never given anyone food or drink or visited the imprisoned. As he stood before Jesus and his big book, the Lord looked up and said, “Well, there isn’t much written here. But you did do something: I was sad, discouraged and depressed and you came and told me funny stories, made me laugh and cheered me up. Get along now into heaven!” (Story adapted from Anthony Castle’s “A Treasure of Quips, Quotes & Anecdotes.”)
So, there you have it. Resolve to be happy in this new year; it’s more important than you know.