When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in Heaven.” (Matthew 5: 1-12)
In today’s scripture, Jesus gathers us around him and presents to us the way to heaven, the way to happiness, the way to holiness, precisely so that we can choose to follow him on it.
The path that he shows us stands in stark contrast to the path that the majority of people in the world believe will make us happy. Jesus’ words present us with the choice on which our lives hinge.
The heart of Jesus’ message is that we can live a very happy life. The call to holiness, to be saints who joyfully pursue God’s will for their lives, can be found in these eight beatitudes. Jesus’ beatitudes sum up our calling or vocation – to live a life of the beatitudes. The word beatitude literally means “happiness” or “blessedness”.
The beatitudes which Jesus offers us are a sign of contradiction to the world’s understanding of happiness and joy. How can one possibly find happiness in poverty, hunger, mourning, and persecution?
Poverty of spirit finds ample room and joy in possessing God as the greatest treasure possible. Hunger of the spirit seeks nourishment and strength in God’s word and Spirit. Sorrow and mourning over wasted life and sin leads to joyful freedom from the burden of guilt and spiritual oppression.
God reveals to the humble of heart the true source of abundant life and happiness. Jesus promises his disciples that the joys of heaven will more than compensate for the troubles and hardships they can expect in this world.
Yet, the words of Jesus still may seem very strange to us. Jesus exalts those whom the world generally regards as weak. He basically says to us “Blessed are you who seem to be losers, because you are the real winners: the kingdom of heaven is yours!”
Jesus is essentially beckoning us to follow him, because he is the face of the beatitudes, he was poor in spirit, compassionate to the point of tears, meek and humble of heart, pure of heart, hungry for our righteousness, merciful, the Prince of Peace, and persecuted unto crucifixion. His words present a challenge that demands a deep conversion of the spirit, a great change of heart, because so many of us don’t really strive to live that way, don’t really make the choices that will lead us to eternal blessedness.
Most people spend a majority of their lives seeking happiness whether it be in our families, our lives, our neighborhoods. In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with that. What happens is that we seek that happiness in the wrong places. It’s a happiness that can’t be found in the attractions of the secular world.
True happiness is found deep inside. It begins by acknowledging that God is the author and creator of our life. It continues by our willingness to follow him. We follow him by living the beatitudes. By living the beatitudes, we experience a change in our hearts. That change in our hearts leads to a life focused on bringing alive the values that God teaches us. And THAT is what will bring us to profound happiness and eternal life with him.
The question that each of us face is whether we are willing to lose the values of the world and win the rewards of heaven. It’s our choice.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, increase my hunger for you and show me the way that leads to everlasting peace and happiness. May I desire you above all else and find perfect joy in doing your will.”
There are the two voices competing for our hearts, the voice of the Good Shepherd and the voice of blind guides. Putting one’s faith in Jesus means choosing to believe what he says and to act on it — no matter how strange. And choosing to follow Jesus means choosing to reject the seductive claims of the world and of evil, no matter how sensible or attractive they may seem.