Back in the early 1950s, during my last two years of high school in southwest Louisiana, I remained a little-skilled substitute on our Henry High basketball team.
Our coach had promised – and he kept his promise – that if we worked hard and made all practices each of us would play in competition.
He kept his promise. I played frequently, for short periods of time, and then he resorted to “The Power of Substitution.”
It has long been said that school sports programs build character and enable young people to learn some things that will carry them forward through life – for example, discipline, fair play and commitment.
I can assure you that the first thing I learned in my sports “career” was how to face reality: I was not and never would be a skilled player on the basketball court or on the softball field (where I failed equally well). This realization made me sad. I wanted to be good. I wanted to be “one of them.” I wanted to be accepted. In a word, I wanted to be “happy.”
At prayer recently, I rediscovered something – something used by psychologists to help people change behavior: “The Power of Substitution.”
You may be plagued with pride, anger or lust. You realize these are sinful realities, but it’s hard to change, because in some way, these sins seem to give you some momentary comfort or relief. You vent your anger, assure yourself you are the center of the universe or you get momentary pleasure from illicit sexual experiences. It’s hard to give up sin. And fear makes it even harder.
As I’ve said and written many times, the most terrifying decision I ever made was to sober up. I knew who I was as a drunk. I did not know who I would be or how I would “make it” without alcohol.
Enter “The Power of Substitution.
It isn’t a question of giving up and being without. It’s the opportunity to move positively toward that happiness you so dearly seek.
You may want to ask yourself: “If what I am now doing is not making me happy, why do I do it? And if I am not happy, what can give me happiness and peace of mind and heart? What will make me whole and help me to be “one of them” – the happy ones?
If you are a believer, you know God’s promise of eternal life. This promise is what you focus on in your quest for happiness. If you truly believe in eternal life, it will become your goal. As it becomes you goal, you will already begin to experience the joy, peace and power of eternal life.
St. Pacian, a fourth century Spanish bishop, gives us this bit of wisdom:
What is peculiar to man, and what Christ gives through his Spirit, is eternal life, but only if we sin no more. Thus death is acquired by sin but avoided by right living; life is lost through sin and preserved through good living. (Liturgy of the Hours, Book IV, p.116)
And our beloved St. Paul reminds us:
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.