Tracey Emin, the well-known British artist, is recovering from major surgery for cancer and is about to have an exhibition at the Royal Academy. She is quoted in the Guardian newspaper as saying, “I don’t want children, I don’t want all the things that you might subconsciously crave when you are young. I just want love. And as much love as I can possibly have. I want to be smothered in it, I want to be devoured by it. And I think that is OK.”
She has always been brutally honest about her feelings. The desire to be loved, to know love is a most basic need in all of us. For Tracey and for us, what gives us the greatest happiness is to know and experience deep, sincere unconditional love. We look for that love in different people and in different place and among different activities.
In the gospel today, Jesus gives us eight descriptions of true happiness. The Greek word “marcarius” means happy. Jesus is giving us the way of love. This way is to be holy, to be a saint. A saint is a person who is being the person God created them to be. We are called to follow God’s will for us and the will of God is to love. So, the whole of my life is to be attuned to the path of love. “To love is to will the good of the other” as Bishop Robert Barron often reminds us. The word the scriptures use when talking about God’s love is “hesed” or mercy. The challenge for us is to make the whole of my life about “hesed”, about being filled with tender mercy.
This feast of All Saints is the day we remember all those ordinary people who are not on the Church’s calendar and who don’t have St before their name but who have lived a life of holiness or tender mercy. I can think of one or two people in my own life who have definitely been examples of saintly living. They are saints not by the hours they spend on their knees, even though they are people of prayer, but by the way they have lived the beatitudes. Their lives have been focused on one thing, doing what God wants and following his path of love. They are not addicted to honour, power, or preoccupied by wealth. Eventually our search for love will bring us to discover what gives us real happiness, which will be only fully experienced in the fullness of time, when we shall see God face to face.
Here is a Psalm we aspiring saints can all say.
“What can bring us happiness?” many say.
Lift up the light of your face on us, O Lord.
You have put into my heart a greater joy
than they have from abundance of corn and new wine.
I will lie down in peace and sleep comes at once
for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.