Aug 17, 2021 1584 Father Augustine Wetta O.S.B, USA

Happiness: It’s a Choice

Truly, at any given moment any one of us can find at least a thousand excellent reasons to be miserable. Our lives never turn out exactly the way we had hoped. But if we stick to the facts—resisting the temptation to lust after fantasies, where we eye with longing some world, some work, some life other than the one we actually live—we will see that happiness is an act of the will. It’s a choice. In the monastery, the old monks have an expression: “That monk has been looking over the wall.” An unhappy monk will always be casting furtive glances out of the cloister and into other men’s lives, imagining that they dwell in halos of unremitting bliss.

But hidden in the Gospel of John is the antidote to that temptation. The ninth chapter focuses on one of the bible’s more unlikely heroes: a man born blind. He is an unlikely hero not because he was blind but because in the course of the story, he shows himself to be lazy, obstinate, disobedient, disrespectful, and irreverent. Interrogated by the authorities concerning his miraculous cure, he answers, “You’re not listening to me, or is it that you people want to be his disciples?” He’s a real smart alec, and I am convinced that he is a teenager. (After twenty years in the classroom, I consider myself an authority on laziness, obstinacy, disobedience, disrespect, and irreverence. Plus…why else would they go to his parents? And why else would his parents need to point out that he was old enough to speak for himself).

At any rate, Jesus appears to be the only person in the story who is not annoyed by him. But this kid has one redeeming quality—redeeming in the theological sense of the word. He may be disrespectful and obstinate, but he sticks to the facts.

“How did you get your sight back?” they ask him.

“I don’t know. He stuck in mud in my eyes and now I see.”

“But that man is a sinner.”

“Maybe so. I don’t know. I was blind and now I can see.”

“But we have no idea where this guy is from.”

“Who cares? I was blind and now I can see! How many times do I have to tell you?”

Notice that he makes no profession of faith. And only after relentless interrogation does he finally acknowledge that this man Jesus (whoever he is) must be from God.He does not even thank Jesus afterward. Jesus has to find him.

“Do you believe in the Son of Man?” says Jesus.

“Who’s that?”

Jesus says, “You’re talking to Him.”

Now I can imagine an alternative ending to this story where the teenager says, “Oh! Right. Thanks a lot for everything. But you know, maybe it wasn’t you who actually healed me. Maybe that was just a coincidence. Maybe my blindness was all psychological to begin with. Maybe there was something in that mud. Maybe I’d better go think about this for a while before I make any rash decisions.”

But remember: this kid is a pragmatist. For better or for worse, he sticks to the facts. Saint John tells us that all he said was, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshipped Him. I once asked my novice master how I was supposed to know if God was really calling me to be a monk of Saint Louis Abbey.

“Well,” he said after some thought, “You’re not somewhere else.” You are here and you are not somewhere else. This is cause enough for rejoicing.


Father Augustine Wetta O.S.B

Father Augustine Wetta O.S.B is a Benedictine monk who serves as chaplain to the Saint Louis Priory School. He is the author of 'The Eighth Arrow and Humility Rules'. Father Augustine lives in Saint Louis Abbey in Saint Louis, Missouri.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Articles