Mystical Word  |  Weekly Reflection
Mystical Word is a weekly reflection on the Sunday Gospel reading by L.J. Milone, Director of Faith Formation, Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle

Spiritual Happiness

For the solemnity of Christmas, we reflect on spiritual happiness.

A lot of holiday movies stress the theme of how a central character didn’t know the gifts he or she already possessed.  It’s a Wonderful Life is a classic example.  While movies have made it trite and overused, the theme is revolutionary.  None of us knows how truly good we have it.  Essentially, these movies communicate a fundamental Gospel dynamic.  God shows us how we have everything we need to be divinely happy.  The Gospel reading for today, Christmas Day, is the Prologue to the Gospel according to St. John.  It talks about this truth of having all we need to be happy as the “true light, which enlightens everyone.”

Christmas is a feast of enlightenment that is meant to wake us up to the divine in all things and, especially, within us.  Happiness is always already within us, and it is the Holy Mystery of God.  This is the Light the Gospel talks about.  Light is vast awareness, not of anything but simply Awareness.  It is the Divine Awareness.  This is the Light enlightening everyone who now reveals the Divine as a visible, touchable person, Jesus.  The Light is the I AM of God, identified with Jesus and all who believe in him.  Believing in Jesus means being aware, knowing the I AM of God is one with my own I am. 

Again, this is not something else to be aware of, like being aware of something in a room or someone standing next to you.  The Light is simply Awareness.  There is our happiness.  The I AM of Pure Awareness.  Our “I am” connects to the I AM because of awareness.  To be aware is to be aware of God, for God is Infinite Awareness.  Medieval mystics like Thomas Aquinas and Meister Eckhart called God, “intellect.”  They did mean God is smart.  They meant to say God is Unlimited Consciousness.  Unfortunately, our awareness is often clouded, reduced, narrow, muddied, and darkened.

There may be darkness, but “the darkness has not overcome” the Light.  The darkness is what prevents us from being happy in God right now.  It represents what many saints and mystics call our attachments.  We're all stuck in an inveterate tendency to identify ultimate happiness with things, people, experiences, ideas, feelings.  Anything under the sun can be an occasion for us to become attached.  Anthony DeMello offers one of the best and most succinct definitions of an attachment:  it is whatever we think will make us happy.  But, it won't.  The thing will never give infinite happiness.  We are wired for God, but we don't know it.  So, we fill our lives with everything but God.

An attachment is anything we think will make us happy.  It is anything we over-identify with in order to find some measure of joy in life.  It can also be something we use to anesthetize ourselves to pain.  Truly, all of us have both kinds of attachment.  Often addictive and harmful behaviors stem from attachments.  That is, many of the things we do are based upon concealed attachments.  Many of our attachments are unconscious.  They are hidden motivations, agendas, and even cultural expectations that restrain us and stifle our desire for God.  They keep us from love.

Jesus, though, presents the Good News of awakening to divine happiness.  It can happen here and now by simply being aware.  The Gospel is a veritable program for waking up to what is always already true: God dwells within us and delights in us as we are.  We might summarize the Gospel program for enlightenment with three short phrases of Jesus: “the Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21), “one's life does not consist of possessions” (Luke 12:15), and “repent” (Luke 13:3). 

Basically, Jesus is telling us 1) God, divine happiness, is within us, 2) our lives are a mess because we are so attached to things, and 3) the way out of such misery is to practice detachment.  Repentance does not just mean to stop sinning.  It means detachment.  The word repent, in the Greek of the New Testament, is better translated as “go beyond your mind.”  Our thinking contains all our attachments.  Thus, Jesus is telling us to transcend our thinking minds to connect to the I AM of God.  He is telling us to be aware, but not to identify with any object of awareness.  By simple, pure awareness we awaken to the divine I AM.  The gift has already been given.  The I AM of God is available within us.  This very moment we can connect with this I AM and discover who we really are, namely, a child of God.  Then, we change dramatically.  Then, our world changes dramatically.  Love pours in because God is love, and we are one with God, and we live it.  This is what Christmas is all about.