By BISHOP BERNARD E. SHLESINGER III | Published September 21, 2023 | En Español
The term “happy hour” was popularized by the Navy over a century ago. Sailors would engage in relaxing activities, such as sports and other forms of entertainment, to relieve themselves from the drudgery of life at sea.
Today, however, the pursuit of happiness has led many to choose forms of entertainment that cause despair, depression and frustration. So many are adrift in a sea of hopelessness, disillusioned by the promise of happiness that our society proposes. As a consequence, a “happy hour” is none other than a time for escaping the drudgery of living by using alcohol and other forms of entertainment, which all fail to address a deeper need for God’s love.
The right to pursuit of happiness written about in the Declaration of Independence has led our nation to imagine that this is the world that must make people happy, rather than God. There is a plethora of items on our menu to choose from, but ultimately many discover that none will satisfy their deeper longing. They may surf the internet and ask themselves: “Isn’t there something more to life while I am being cast adrift in cyberspace?” Sadly, life for many is no longer something to be celebrated but a struggle with depression and hopelessness, and suicide becomes a way out from an unhappy life.
Recently, the Rescue Project came to Atlanta to remind us that we are living with a false narrative of the pursuit of happiness. We were reminded that many are being seduced into accepting a narrative that is antithetical to the narrative of the Gospel. Jesus’ invitation, therefore, remains more urgent than ever: “Come to me all you who find life burdensome, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your souls will find rest for my yoke is easy and my burden light.”
To spend an hour in prayer with Jesus and allow him to speak to our hopes and our misery is an important invitation we should repeatedly offer to others. Jesus says, “I am the Light of the World,” “I am the Bread of Life,” “I am the Way the Truth and the Life,” “I am the Good Shepherd” and “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
The holy hour with Jesus will ultimately lead us to happiness. During this time of Eucharistic Revival, let us allow Jesus to speak to any feelings of hopelessness that we may have.
Christianity is the only religion that believes God incarnates himself into our world and situations. God was made man in order to address the misery of every person.
We see in the Gospels, Jesus addressing the misery of the Samaritan woman, the tax collector Zacchaeus, the woman caught in adultery and in the call of the disciples. Jesus gave these people a fresh new outlook on life, and faith, hope and love. Jesus can give it to us if we choose to turn our happy hours into holy hours of prayer instead.
Let us adopt a daily holy hour and bring ourselves to the heart of Jesus. It is there we will rediscover what it means to be happy and holy, as we fall in love with him, who is our life and hope.