“Strive to enter through the narrow door.” (Luke 13:24)
Hedonism: the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life.
Last week, I unloaded a big word on you that I’ve never used before as I described the attitudes of Jesus’ times compared to ours and noted that not much has changed over the last 2000 years. The big word was “hedonism.” I used it as an addition to the two other deceiving ideologies that our popes have warned us about: relativism and secularism. A couple of weeks ago, my father and I were talking about many of the themes that I have been mentioning in my homilies over the last few weeks. We talked about how the world is deceiving Christians everywhere into living a lifestyle that goes totally against all of our basic and intrinsic values. My father wisely noted that what is deceiving young people today and all Christians in general is a hedonistic culture that seeks only to find pleasure no matter what the cost or the consequences that it may have in our relationship with others, our relationship with family and friends, and more importantly our relationship with God. I found Webster’s definition for hedonism fascinating: “the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life.” Imagine that! A doctrine! Unfortunately, it has become a doctrine for so many: “if it feels good, do it.” A shoe company has spent 30 years telling us to “just do it.” So as a result of the prevailing hedonism that exists in our culture, we have people who consider themselves Catholic getting swept up in this “do what feels good” mentality. Young people who were raised Catholic see no problem going from party to party getting drunk to the point that they can’t remember where they actually were the night before. Young Catholic couples see no problem engaging in pre-marital sex just because “it feels right” or “it’s the right time,” or my favorite “because we love each other.” And then either they break up to engage in this behavior with someone else, or they go further in their relationship because they’ve achieved a level of intimacy that is reserved exclusively for the sacrament of Holy Matrimony and have no problem living together “because it’s convenient.” I’m just talking about young people here. What gets me is the parents who profess to be uber-Catholic who look the other way and allow this behavior to go on “because it makes my children happy” and of course we don’t want our children to be happy, but at what cost?
Today Jesus tells us that we must strive to enter through the narrow gate. Now Christ himself is the narrow gate because he is the only one that can lead us to true happiness and joy. In the opening prayer of the Mass today, we implore our Heavenly Father to help us “that, amid the uncertainties of this world, our hearts may be fixed on that place where true gladness is found.” So right there in our opening prayer we debunk the myth of hedonism, for true gladness can only be found in heaven. Yes, there are many things that can make us happy in this world, but they should not be the “sole or chief good in our life.” That place is only reserved for Christ. Let me put it another way: true joy is only fleeting if it is not rooted in Jesus Christ. Everything else is a myth that the world is selling and that we shouldn’t be buying. As I mentioned last week, as Catholics we must stand up to these false ideologies and grow a backbone especially if we have young people under our care. We cannot expect to continue living a hedonistic lifestyle and expect to enter through that narrow gate like the people in the gospel. My friends, these are challenging times for Catholics, but with Christ, who is the reason for our joy, there is no evil that the world can throw at us that we cannot handle: even if it comes gift-wrapped in a package called “pleasure.”