First Reading: 1 Kings 17:1-6
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 120 (121)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 5:1-12
THE CHRISTIAN VERSION OF HAPPINESS
Happiness, as most people think of it, tends to be externally triggered and is based on other people, things, places, thoughts and events. But what if it wasn’t? In the history of Philosophy vis-à-vis the ancient epoch, Aristotle, more than anybody else, enshrines happiness as a central purpose of human life and a goal in itself. As a result, he devoted more space to the topic of happiness than any thinker prior to the modern era. It is worthy of note that he draws some similar conclusions; that is, happiness depends on the cultivation of virtue, though his virtues were somewhat more individualistic. How then can we better understand the reality of happiness in relation to our Christian spirituality? First, it is pertinent to understand that true happiness is a deep foundation of trust in God’s Word; as Scripture says: “Whoever listens closely to the word finds happiness; whoever trusts Yahweh is blessed” (Proverbs 16:20). In relation to this, today’s readings define our Christian goal of eternal happiness and explain the attitudes and actions necessary to reach it.
In the gospel reading, Jesus outlines the values and attitudes needed to be cultivated in order to enter and happily enjoy God’s kingdom: poverty of spirit, hunger and thirst for justice, compassion, meekness, mercy, integrity, peace-making and the willingness to suffer persecution for the sake of justice. In essence, the Beatitudes both fulfil and complete the Ten Commandments which stress the “Thou shalt nots.” Here, Jesus presents the Beatitudes in a positive sense, as the virtues in life, which will ultimately be our reward of salvation, principally in the afterlife.
It is important to also note that being at peace and trusting God in challenging situations of anxiety, fear, turmoil, pandemic, poverty, persecution, etc., brings genuine gladness into the heart. This we see in the first reading. Here, the prophet Elijah (a name which means “Yahweh is my God”) was sent to Ahab to denounce the cult of Baal, the god of Tyre, who provided the rain (cf. 1Kgs. 18:19). Elijah, in the name of Yahweh, announces and guarantees a drought, which will reveal Baal’s weakness to his devotees, as he will not be able to make it rain in Israel, against the prophet’s will. Ahab, at the instigation of his wife, pursues Elijah, but God protects him directly, feeding him in a miraculous way, near the torrent of wadi Cherith, just as he had fed the people in the desert. Needless to say that Elijah trusted and relied on God in the midst of the challenges and the Lord made him happy.
Dear friends in Christ, happiness is not an absence of sorrow or grief. Jesus was “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3). Yet He was “anointed with the oil of gladness…,” because He loved righteousness and hated lawlessness (cf. Hebrews 1:8-9). Also, we should not confuse happiness with pleasure because happiness is neither the fulfilment of human passions and desires. In fact, these can lead to emptiness, dissatisfaction, and ultimately, misery, after such pleasure is over. Being able to love in a situation that causes offence, bitterness, or wrath brings genuine gladness into the heart. Being able to serve and give in the midst of laziness and selfishness brings genuine gladness into the heart. Being merciful to those who hurt us, brings genuine happiness to the heart. Being a peacemaker brings genuine happiness to the heart. These are the practical applications of the beatitudes in today’s gospel. The word beatitude comes from the Latin “beatitudo,” meaning “blessedness” or “happiness.” The phrase “blessed are” in each beatitude implies a current state of happiness or well-being. This expression held a powerful meaning of divine joy and perfect happiness to the people of Christ’s day; likewise, it should hold the same for us who follow Christ’s path today.
Therefore, we are called to always turn to the Lord and ask for his help in living out the demands of the “beatitudes” in order to achieve true and lasting happiness, for “our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth,” as today’s psalmist affirms.
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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