4th Sunday of Easter, Year C 
First Reading: Acts 13:14, 43-52 
Second Reading: Rv 7:9, 14B-17
Gospel Reading: Jn 10:27-30  

“In the last analysis, what we all ardently desire is to be happy,” said Father John Hardon, SJ, in his address to the Vancouver Archdiocesan Catechetical Institute in 1991.

This Sunday’s Second Reading promises that our desire will be fulfilled: “They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their Shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

The desert images remind me of a talk Archbishop Adam Exner, OMI, gave to catechists in 1996, in which he described how he had found God in the Desert of Judah between Jerusalem and Jericho.

“In a very real sense our lives are like the desert,” he said. “There is an emptiness in our souls which we cannot fill, try as we may. We desire happiness, but we experience sadness. We want joy and laughter, but we experience tears. We want energy, strength, and health, but we experience illness, pain, and infirmity. We want peace and harmony, but we experience misunderstandings, conflict, and even violence.

“Jesus came to free us from our desert of powerlessness, helplessness, and barrenness,” he said.

As Jesus says in this Sunday’s Gospel Reading: “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.”

However, the happiness described in the Second Reading is only for those “who have come out of the great ordeal,” who “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

“The world teaches that happiness consists in doing our own will, but that is a lie born in hell,” said Father Hardon. “Sin and happiness are a contradiction.”

If we want to be happy, we must live by the Beatitudes, he said. Then we will find that “Christianity is profoundly pragmatic,” he said. “Christianity works.”

Each beatitude begins with a promise “that we will be blessed: made happy by God,” he pointed out. “Blessed is the only word that expresses what our Lord promised.”

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,” he quoted. “No earthly possessions will give true happiness. That comes in proportion to our detachment from everything in this world, whether we have much or little.”

“Blessed are they who mourn,” he continued. “We must be prepared for trials, sorrows, pain, and misunderstanding. We will be comforted; that is, strengthened, enabled to carry the burden, not with our own strength but with the strength of God.”

“Blessed are the meek,” he said. “Christ promises us happiness if we remain meek and gentle in the face of provocation, unkindness, thoughtlessness, and even cruelty. If we remain self-controlled and patient, we will influence others with a power no one else can wield.”

“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for what is right, for they shall be satisfied,” he quoted. “If we control our own desires and choose what God wants, we will always be happy, for our desires will always be satisfied.”

In his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey said, “Happiness can be defined, in part at least, as the fruit of the desire and ability to sacrifice what we want now for what we want eventually.”

That takes wisdom. “It is not a wisdom of this age, however,” St. Paul said, “not of the rulers of this age, who are men headed for destruction,” as in this Sunday’s First Reading.

“What we utter is God’s wisdom: a mysterious, a hidden wisdom,” of which it is written: “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.” Yet “God has revealed this wisdom to us through the Spirit.”