Who wouldn’t want to take the direct path to happiness?
Well, today’s Gospel reading gives us a roadmap to follow if we want to be happy, not just in the future, but today as well. What is the wonderful guide, you may be asking? It’s the Beatitudes.
What makes the Beatitudes so different is that their message runs contrary to what the world teaches about happiness. The world tells us that we can find true happiness in having successful careers, in being esteemed by our peers, by having a lot of money, getting the latest fashion, or having a lot of fun. The Beatitudes tell us that true happiness comes from self-sacrifice, from following the way of the Lord even when it is difficult, and from putting others first.
This message wasn’t any easier to accept in Jesus’ time than it is today. However, we must all come to the point where we acknowledge our spiritual poverty and our complete dependence on God if we want to be truly happy. Then we can begin to understand why Jesus would say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.”
Unpack the First Reading
Some may think that the word “curse” should never be associated with the person of the Lord, yet that’s what Jeremiah says. Why would the God of love curse anybody? Yet God’s love demands a curse upon those who are indifferent to him. Indifference, not hate, is the opposite of love. Hate at least cares enough about someone to dislike them, indifference doesn’t care at all. Love is complete concern for the concerns of another, and so God is infinitely concerned with each one of us.
A curse is actually what happens when human indifference comes face to face with God’s love. Indifference to God’s blessing is itself the curse. God’s unwavering plan is to bless us. However, those who reject God’s blessing, out of hate or indifference, are cursed for the very lack of his blessing. It’s just like a light switch. Either it’s on and there’s light, or it’s off and you’re in the dark. God’s blessing is light itself and, if we reject that light, we’re condemning ourselves to curse the darkness.
Unpack the Second Reading
Some members of the Church at Corinth didn’t believe that people would actually be resurrected, and Paul handles this question by immediately referring to what he considers the central element of the Christian faith: the death and resurrection of Jesus. In Paul’s eyes, the opinion that no one is actually resurrected from the dead empties the faith of its substance. The Christian faith without the historical event of the Resurrection is like a body drained of blood; that is, it’s dead.
The bottom line is that it’s absurd for a Christian not to believe in the Resurrection. A Christian who doesn’t believe in the Resurrection is like a fisherman who doesn’t believe in fish; the goal of fishing is to catch fish, and the goal of Christians is to be resurrected with Christ. St. Paul’s argument is simply this: If you don’t believe in the Resurrection, Christ’s and ours, you really aren’t a Christian at all.
Unpack the Gospel
This passage from Luke is sometimes called the “Sermon on the Plain” to distinguish it from Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount.” Luke suggests that Jesus is a new Moses coming down from a new Mount Sinai to give a New Law for the New Covenant People of God. The New Law was that God’s blessing would explode in the world to such an extent through his offering of self that even the greatest evils of human history (poverty, hunger, mourning, and persecution) would be seen as channels of immense blessing.
The blessings of God, unlocked by Christ’s cross, would be so vast under the new regime that no amount of earthy comfort could compare. In fact, those who pursue riches, feasts, entertainment, and honor for their own sake will find them empty in comparison and perhaps even the cause of their own perdition.
Watch the Video
This week’s video presenter, Jules Miles, has much to say about poverty, happiness, and the hope of everlasting life. Watch this 6-minute Opening the Word reflection on FORMED.org. Then ponder the following questions in your journal, with your family or within your small group.
In this week’s Gospel, Jesus presents us with a roadmap for blessedness. In the Beatitudes, Christ tells his followers that true happiness and fulfillment come from humility and service that reflect his own life.
According to the video presenter, how does Christ’s view of happiness differ with the cultural perceptions of his time?
How does the Christian way differ with our own world’s understanding of happiness?
Our world can often present a very different understanding of what makes us truly happy or fulfilled. Unfortunately, we too often fall into these misperceptions of happiness.
Take a look at the list of things we created at the beginning of this session that people today think will make them happy. If Jesus were looking at our list, what do you think he would say about these ideals?
Which ones do you think he would say are truly top priorities for living a happy and fulfilling life?
Which ideals on our list (if any) might he say are not as urgent? What might Jesus add to our list?
The Desire for Happiness
“The Beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness. This desire is of divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it.”
Reflections reprinted here with permission from Augustine Institute.