What do a lost sheep, a lost silver coin and a lost son all have in common? They are all lost, of course; but also, in the parables of Jesus, they are all found. Their re-discovery triggers joyful celebrations. The people who lost and found want and need to share their relief and happiness and call their friends and neighbours together.
Happiness, like fear, anger and sadness, is infectious and, though for different reasons, calls out to be shared.
With the negative states we want to share them because they are destructive; perhaps we instinctively feel if we bottle them up they will destroy us more quickly but if we can infect others it will dilute them.
But with happiness, to bottle it up would diminish it and ourselves. Parties and celebrations are essential to human happiness because they allow us to share what is itself a fruit of participation in the ground of being. People who refuse to go to a party, like the jealous older brother, are seen as life-deniers. Revelers sometimes act as if they should all be put into a party of misery by themselves for spoiling others’ fun.
However in the spirit of the gospel let’s not exclude those who seem condemned to be excluded or exclude themselves. Celebrating life includes the compassion we feel - and show - to those who cannot celebrate. We cannot be happy by excluding the unhappy.
By exclusion we lose. By inclusion we find. By embracing the unlovable we gain deeper insight (experience) into the nature of happiness. We see that it is not just about recovering what we lost or about having a good day. Some things we lose are lost for ever. There are good days and bad days.
Happiness – the kind that is not lost even when we lose something precious – is not about having but being. Not being content or discontent. But being who we are.
Laurence Freeman OSB