This Sunday’s Gospel is about the Beatitudes through which Jesus shows us ways or keys that open us to happiness. Certainly, it’s not the kind of happiness as the world teaches us. That’s why even the means of realising it is quite different from that of the world. By the Beatitudes Jesus offers us not only a revolutionary meaning of happiness but also the manner of journeying towards it.
We try to be happy together
Zephaniah 2: 3; 3: 12–13 Psalms 146:7-10 I Corinthians 1:26–31 Matthew 5:1–12
Beatitudes, manner of living the Kingdom of God
Jesus has come to give us life, and that we may have it in abundance. From his own life of beatitude he offers us also ways that can see us to our own happiness. Firstly, the beatitudes open us to another way of understanding happiness liberated from narrow and egoist attitude that keeps us closed upon ourselves. Pursuit for happiness is not a lone journey that sets us in opposition with others. In fact, genuine happiness is only possible in healthy relationship both with God and with others.
On alert! Something’s coming
Matthew presents in the solemn way the scenario of the teaching of Jesus. It’s like he’s warning us to be on alert for something important is about to happen. “When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak….”
The scene sends us back to Moses and the people of Israel. On Mount of Sinai God gave them the ways, in form of commandments, as guide to live happily as liberated people in the Promised Land. Indeed, the people of Israel would live genuinely free and happy as long as they would keep a healthy relationship with God and with neighbour.
Similarly, in the Gospel we have Jesus the new Moses leading the people of the new alliance into the life of liberty of God’s children. Jesus looks at these people and he knows the deep yearning of their hearts. The people are in search of well-being, they want to be happy. We are not different.
Our tragic search for happiness
Today, once again, Jesus poses his gaze of compassion on us. In us is the thirst and hunger for happiness. In fact, we make a lot of effort in order to have happiness, unfortunately, we yield very little, if any at all.
Around the clock cars speed off dangerously on the roads, we hurry to catch up with this and that –things on which, we think, depends our happiness. It’s the education we have received from the world that seems to be telling us constantly:
You want to be happy? Well, if you can earn a little more and buy more you will have a joyful family. So we roll our sleeves and immerse ourselves in work, 8 days per week, indeed 8 days. Possibly, we gain a little more money and we can consume more but at a price. Not only do we run the risk of burning ourselves out but also we are shocked to realise when it’s too late that our family is beyond repair. In our pursuit for happiness we neglect to watch on the health of our family and relationships. We may have a little more money to spend yet with a burn-out and a fissured family there’s simply no way of enjoying the material goods we may have.
You want to be happy? Get some power and make sure you cling to it as long as you can. Consequently, the world is thrown into senseless and endless wars because of greed people who cannot detach themselves from power. Think of the many forms of injustice that little people suffer economically or politically! In such circumstances, what kind of happiness can we talk about?
You want to be happy? Excel above everyone else. In the end, we lose the sense of being with others. We no longer appreciate others as companions on the common road to well-being. Not only do we consider them as competitors but we turn them into stepping stones on our way up. We care little the people we crash. Anyhow, how possible is it to be truly happy with the success built on broken backs of others?
Happy in the service of the most vulnerable
Beatitudes, world upside down
The list is endless of the folly we do and the consequent harm on humanity of our egoistic pursuit for happiness. As response to such futility, Jesus offers us something better. It’s happiness indeed but not as the world sees it.
In the attitude of beatitude I present myself before God in humility and surrender no matter whatever material advantage or power I may have. In my relation with others I don’t need to brace my arm muscles to display my power. I don’t need to bully neither do I need to dominate. A word of peace in the spirit of dialogue sets me along others as journey companions in the common quest for well-being. I don’t need to victimise others or lie in order to live well.
The only challenge of the beatitudes is to be determined to sail against the current of false images of happiness that we have grown to believe. That’s why, as part of the liberation, Jesus leads us up the mountain so that we can have a different perspective of things. From the mountain he proposes us to see things as God sees them. It’s to change from the slavery of egoism and come to realise that happiness does not consist in the abundance of what I hoard for myself but rather in the quality of shared life with others.
Invitation to beatitudes
Through his teaching on the beatitude Jesus invites me to rethink: what am I chasing after in my life? And in my quest for happiness, what kind of relationship am I building with God, with others and with the environment?
Indeed, search for happiness is legitimately human. We should be creative enough to invent something that gives taste to our life. Yet, we should however be wary of certain images of happiness and their manner of realising them. That’s why we ought to let us be inspired by certain role models. For Mother Teresa there’s no other way of living happily than that of service:
“A life not lived for others is not a life.”
Lord, liberate me from egoist desires that estrange me from you and from others. Help me to look at others as companions on the road of our common quest for happiness.
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See also: 4th Sunday B. He Teaches with Authority