"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." - Thomas Jefferson & Declaration of Independence, 1776
As Christians we are called to analyze culture, and, aided by the Spirit, heal, elevate and purify those elements within it which run contrary to the Gospel. Given how far adrift America is, the restoration of her proper course is a daunting task. But regardless of the strength, duration and outcome of the storm in which we are immersed, as Christians, as men and women informed by the light of faith, we will not lose hope. As St. Teresa of Avila said, God alone suffices. Our hope does not rest on the passing form of this world (1 Cor. 7:31), but on the promises of Christ and the glorious future that awaits us, for "God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Cor. 1:9).
We are called to become, by faith in Christ, members of the divine family and thus enter into the invisible and other-worldly (Jn 18:36) fellowship of the kingdom of God. Jesus, as the door to eternal life (Jn 10:7-9), has opened the way to that divine kingdom. Life in Christ is a participation in God's own life and is therefore a substantially and qualitatively new way of living. Speaking of his salvific mission for humankind, Jesus said: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10).
Abundant life! While Thomas Jefferson wrote of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the context of throwing off a despotic British government in favor of an independent nation, Christ speaks of eternal realities which travel inconceivably beyond the temporal, and which will continue with an unending permanency guaranteed by God himself. We are brought forth from nothingness to life by Christ, sustained by Christ, and gifted with the potential to enjoy everlasting, divinely infused supernatural bliss by Christ's redemptive sacrifice on the cross. So long as we remain in Christ, we no longer simply pursue happiness, but rather it becomes an inalienable and eternal reality -- and this wondrous state of existence is available as God's gift to us here, right now, although its fullest dimension is attained only in the next life.
St. Paul wrote that "Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor. 2:9). Since the glorious state of our future as Christians far exceeds our understanding, there is little that can be definitively said about what awaits those who love God. The temptation, however, is to project our experience of the often meager happiness tasted here through contact with created objects onto the eternal "now" of heaven. That is, since the normal experience of earthly happiness is often so fleeting and unsatisfying, we tend to view the happiness of heaven through an unsatisfactory, temporal lens. Given that, we might not even be too sure we want to live forever!
"All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk!" ( Isaiah 55:1 ). The journey toward human fulfillment is found in Christ, whose love supplies both our strength and our thirst, for the Lamb is our shepherd who leads us to springs of living waters (Revelation 7:17 ).
-F. K. Bartels, www.catholic.org