Eternal happiness consists in union with God, through the exercise of the intellect contemplating God and the will loving Him. If we wish to attain it, we must begin to draw near to it in this life. We must seek to know and love God. But love of God consists in keeping His commandments (John xiv. 23). From this it follows that:
We shall attain to eternal happiness by the following means:
1. We must strive to know God by means of faith in the truths He has revealed to us.
Our Lord says: “This is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent” (John xvii. 3). That is to say, the knowledge of God brings man to eternal happiness.
2. We must fulfil the will of God by keeping His commandments.
Our Lord says to the rich young man: “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. xix. 17).
By means of our own strength we can neither believe nor keep the commandments; for this we need the grace of God.
Even Adam and Eve in a state of innocence needed the help of grace. He who travels to a distant country, besides his own exertions needs money for the journey. The farmer cannot cultivate his land without the aid of sunshine and of rain. Man, too, has a special weakness by reason of original sin. This makes grace the more indispensable. The blind man needs a guide, the sick man strengthening food. We are like a man who through weakness has fallen to the ground, and has no power, of himself, to rise. He must look around for one to aid him. So Our Lord tells us: “Without Me you can do nothing” (John xv. 5). As the sun is necessary to the earth, to enlighten and warm it, so is grace necessary to our soul.
We obtain the grace of God through the means of grace instituted by Jesus Christ.
3. We must therefore avail ourselves of the means of grace; of which the chief are holy Mass, the sacraments, and prayer.
The means of grace are a channel through which grace is conveyed to our soul. Faith is the road which leads to heaven, the commandments are like sign-posts by the way, the means of grace the money for the journey. “The way that leads to life is narrow and thorny; the way that leads to destruction is broad, and many are they who go in thereat” (Matt. vii. 13).
It is also true that he who desires happiness must have religion.
Religion consists in a knowledge of God and a life corresponding to the will of God. Religion is not a matter of feeling; it is a matter of the will and of action, and consists in following out the principles that God has laid down. Mere knowledge does not constitute religion, else the devil would have religion; the service of God is necessarily included in it. We do not call a man a baseball player or cricketer because he knows the rules and nature of the game; practice is also required.
It is also true that he who desires to be happy must strive to be like to God.
Man becomes like to God when all his thought and action resemble the divine thought and action. The commandments of God are a mirror, in which we recognize whether our actions are like or unlike those of God.
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III. CAN WE ATTAIN PERFECT HAPPINESS ON EARTH?
This article, II. HOW ARE WE TO ATTAIN TO ETERNAL HAPPINESS? is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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