The trouble is, we live in a world and a society that barely knows the difference between happiness and pleasure, between joy and enjoyment, between choice and vocation, between selfishness and blessedness.
In London - you may have heard - there is heavily funded campaign to put advertisements for atheism on the side of buses. The motto which they are using runs like this: “God probably doesn’t exist. Don’t worry. Enjoy your life.”
Well, putting aside their lack of certainty in their own convictions, and the assumption that belief gives anxiety rather than comfort, I am struck by this commandment to Enjoy your life. They obviously not only think that all believers are miserable (while only a few of us are), but they also believe that if we just cast off belief then we can enjoy our life. At first it might seem attractive, but notice, it is a deeply selfish statement. No love. No service of others. No commitment. Just enjoy your life, because you are the only one who matters.
The trouble is, life often isn’t enjoyable. We struggle to achieve our goals. We work hard for little reward. We are disappointed in relationships, beset by illness or tragedy. The command to “enjoy your life”, provides no hope or comfort.
Did the saints set out to enjoy their lives? St Therese, who died in her early twenties? St Maria Goretti, murdered at the age of 12? St Bernadette, who suffered ill health for all her short life? St Peter, who betrayed his Lord and was executed for his belief? St Maximilian Kolbe, and St Teresa Benedicta who died in the Nazi death camps? Did they enjoy life?
But were they unhappy? Ah - they embraced their various vocations no doubt with fear and trepidation, they knew the reality of their pain, but also the truth of Gospel and the certainty of the hope which they shared. They inspire us because despite everything they happily made sacrifices for a greater hope, not enjoyment or pleasure, but the joy and happiness of the blessedness of God.
It is very appropriate that Fr Robert begins his ministry on the weekend of All Saints, and with the prayers and readings of the feast.
It reminds us that the Christian vocation, which he shares with each of you is a pursuit of happiness. Along the path there may well be moments of sorrow and mourning, of striving for what is right and good, of opposition and conflict, the challenge to both purity and mercy. The vocation of every Christian is not an easy road, not one of convenience, not one without difficulty. To be a Christian is to be called, not to pick and choose.
But it is a vocation which leads, through commitment, and love, and sacrifice to true blessedness, true happiness. This is the road which Fr Robert walks with you and you with him. You are all called to be saints. As John Paul II said “Do not be afraid to be saints”!