“I believed that, at this point in my life, it was no longer possible to be happy”. Paola was one of my classmates from high school, attentive, intelligent, capable of building relationships with many people. During the years, we have remained in contact, even when far apart, and especially when I left for mission. She always had a positive outlook on life despite the death of a great friend when she was in high school, that of her father a few years after, and the serious illness that she fought and won.
A year ago, she called me and said, “Lele, do you want to celebrate my wedding mass?”. Sometime afterwards, together with her fiancé, she told me: “I am very well; I’m happy. Up until this point I had lost all hope. I thought that at my age, it was no longer possible to be happy.” Her words moved me profoundly. How many people in the world, how many of those we know, have resigned themselves to the idea that they can never be happy? How many have lost the hope that life might fully respond to the need of fulfillment present in their heart? Precisely for this reason, Christ came into the world: to tell every man that his desire for happiness might be fulfilled. And in this we also find the consistency of our task: to announce the Gospel to the whole world.
When I heard my friend say that phrase, I understood why so many affirm that the beatitudes are the heart of the Christian message. The beatitudes affirm that it doesn’t matter whether one is rich, poor, persecuted, sick… Whoever encounters Christ can fulfill his need for happiness. Something Giussani said when commenting on this page of the Gospel of Matthew has always struck me. One imagines the crowd listening to Jesus as he speaks—those farthest away from him probably weren’t able to hear everything he was saying, but of one word they were certain”: “blessed”, that is, happy. This is what was essential, it was enough to understand this: happiness was being promised to them.
So, the Christian is one who is conscious that only in eternal life he will be able to experience complete and definitive happiness, in that place where there is no longer pain or death. But he who has encountered Christ also knows that it is already possible in our everyday existence to begin to experience that joy, for knowing the meaning of life generates in us the capacity to deeply enjoy every small detail, to receive every instant of beauty, from the light of a sunset to the smile of a child, from the aroma of a good wine to a piano sonata, from the embrace of a friend to a stranger’s act of charity.
Christians are men and women who know that all this is an anticipation of Paradise and that, precisely through our earthly life, they can begin to foretaste eternal life; for this reason they know how to have a good time. At the same time, they know that without the prospect of eternal life, this existence would no longer have meaning and our life would be desperate. From this hope springs the creativity, the courage, and the underlying decision that determines how we face all of reality, including pain, including even death.
The Christian, as Enzo Piccinini said, is one who does everything with the sole purpose of being happy. The world needs people who have this positive gaze on reality and on life, lovers of truth and of beauty. The world needs Christians, their way of looking at things and their gladness, to sustain that need for fulfillment that every person has in their own heart and to overcome the fear that happiness is impossible for them.
In the photo, a moment from the summer vacation of the Fraternity of St. Charles (Corvara, July 2021).