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The highest level of human happiness that money can buy is that which a person experiences when he uses his wealth to seek the good of another without expecting anything in return. Together with other forms of self-sacrifice or gratuitous love, this action falls under what philosophers call the “love of benevolence” or “agape” in Greek. Seeking the good of another without expecting anything in return is the essence of this kind of love which gives the maximum level of earthly happiness to human beings. Examples are the love of a mother for her child; the love of a Mother Teresa for the poorest of the poor; the love of a poorly paid public school teacher for her pupils; the love of a social worker for slum dwellers; the love of a St. John Bosco for the orphans in his care; etc. We can go on and on about the capacity of humans--who are made in the image of God who is Love--to love unselfishly even to the extent of giving up one's life for another. In fact, that was the highest standard set by Jesus Christ: There is no greater love than that of someone who gives his life for another.
In his encyclical, Charity in Truth, Pope Benedict XVI stressed the truth that businessmen, entrepreneurs, employers--being human beings themselves made unto the image of their Creator--are all capable of the love of benevolence. This means that their greatest happiness can come, not from amassing as much wealth as possible or becoming famous in the world of business, but from using their entrepreneurial and managerial skills to contribute to the common good of society, to help especially the underprivileged among their workers and the people who live in the communities in which they operate. In this sense, economics makes happiness possible among the rich and the powerful when they can use their wealth to come to the aid of the poorest among the poor. Philanthropy, which is an act of the love of benevolence, can help one attain one of the highest forms of human happiness on earth. Just ask Bill and Melinda Gates.
At the supernatural level, the happiest person on earth is not the one who has the most money or the least money. The happiest person is the one who has such a strong faith that God is his or her Father who will never allow anything harmful to happen to His beloved child. St. Josemaria Escriva preached this doctrine all his life: divine filiation is the foundation of unbroken or unending happiness on this earth. Since all things that happen to us in this world, even those that the world calls tribulations, misfortunes, accidents, or tragedies, come from the hands of God, we can always be sure that everything works unto our good.
The whole country just got a very moving example of this supernatural attitude in the reaction of Miss Raisa Laurel, the second-year law student whose legs had to be amputated because of a bomb that exploded on Taft Avenue after the law exams of her colleagues. Her cheerful disposition, despite the tragic event, was not the result of stoicism. As she repeated time and again, God must have intended to send some good thing to her through this terrible trial. Her friends from the University of Asia and Pacific, where she obtained her undergraduate degree, are familiar with the source of her strength. They are steeped in the teachings of St. Josemaria Escriva.
Another example of the constant cheerfulness that a person of faith possesses, despite many sufferings and trials, has been described in this newspaper. One of the finalists in the Happiest Pinoy contest sponsored by this paper is Carrie Reyes, architect, educator, homemaker. In an article written by Rachel Barawid in the August 13, 2010 issue of this paper entitled "There's something about Carrie," it is very clearly stated that Carrie, despite being stricken by cancer and facing so many tragedies in her family, has kept her cheerfulness because of her unfailing trust in God's Providence: "When Tita Carrie was diagnosed with malignant breast cancer (with metastasis in the bones) in 2008, she immediately called her six children and friends to happily inform them of her condition...She says everyone was surprised that she wasn't like other cancer patients who become sad and destitute . . . Tita Carrie says it is the grace of joyful acceptance and strength from God that is making her survive her illness until now. 'If you are just resigned, thinking that you cannot do anything about it, but at the back your mind you will be in denial, you won't be happy. But if you accept it, and think that this will be good for you, God will help you prepare for it." Carrie, who is very devoted to St. Josemaria, has captured the essence of divine filiation, the key to serenity and happiness in the midst of sufferings and tribulations.
Yes, a minimum of material or economic comfort can indeed contribute to human happiness because man is both body and soul. But this happiness is skin deep, like the physiological joy of an animal, as St. Josemaria said in The Way. A deeper and more sustainable happiness on earth can only come from loving others, both with the love of friendship and more especially with the love of sacrifice or benevolence. And the highest form of happiness comes from doing God's will on earth, accepting everything that comes from the hands of a loving Father. For comments, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.