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Father Muench Says...

The difference between happiness, joy

Nov. 13, 2019

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Recently, I listened to one of those TED talks. The subject was joy and happiness. The speaker spoke of what he considered the difference between joy and happiness. So, I decided to do some investigating myself into the way many writers think about joy and happiness.

I noticed that many simply consider happiness and joy similar emotions. However, others see a real difference. Let me share with you a few of the ideas that I found in this regard: “Happiness is caused by luck, good fortune and other worldly pleasures, whereas joy is caused by overall happiness and soul satisfying incidents.”

“Happiness is more momentary; joy is long lasting.” “Joy makes peace with who you are, why you are, how you are, whereas happiness tends to be externally triggered and is based on other people, things, places, thoughts and events.”

So, I decided to look into my own life. Happiness is about self, they say. My example, in my life, would be skiing. Skiing always made me happy. I found a certain happy feeling when I was out with my friends skiing. Each day of skiing brought great fun and definitely a happy spirit.

There have been, of course, may other experiences that were happy moments for me. Time spent with many of my friends were rather happy times. There were plenty of other things that also made me happy, like seeing a good movie.

However, I do think of some other experience that were definitely long-lasting joy. They say that joy is dissolving of self. What comes to mind is how I was blessed by God to spend my times as a priest assigned to wonderful parish communities. As a priest, I have worked together with wonderful families helping each other, praying together each week at Sunday Mass. This continues to bring a unique joy to my life. I have had the opportunity to develop close relationships over my life – with my family, with friends, with so many parishioners. These relationships have been and continue to be very joyful experiences and gifts from the Lord.

As a person of faith, when God entered my life, joy entered my life. My relationship with God through prayer and the frequent celebration of the Holy Mass continues to bring joy into all that I am. I believe in faith that every day God is a part of my life. God is always there to guide and lead me, helping me to realize all I can do as a priest for all who need me. This brings joy to my life and my priesthood. This joy is unique and special. This joy is transformative. This joy has a profound influence on me, always leading me and showing me the way to live a very meaningful life and ministry.

One more thing to add: I know only too well that there have been times when I was not successful, times when I truly failed. As I look back over the years, I realize that too many times I missed opportunities to do important things – times when I could have helped others, times when I could have done something good. I continue to realize that I have been a sinner. In faith, I believe that God is a loving and forgiving God. There have been times when I have recognized my need for repentance. I believe and know that the Lord brought forgiveness into my life.

The Lord had truly has challenged me to change my life and find peace in His forgiveness. This is obviously a time of profound joy. I have been saved by this loving God and challenged to continue to do so much more in my ministry.

This is my joy.

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