HOMILY OF THE FOUTH WEEK IN THE ORDINARY TIME, YEAR A
Theme: BEATITUDES: ROADMAP TO HAPPINESS
-Fr. Gerald Musa
Once upon a time, there was a king who had everything money could buy, but he was a very sad man and suffered from chronic depression. He desperately yearned to be a happy man and he sought everywhere for medicine that would make him happy. He went on a medical tour to all the best hospitals and consulted the best Doctors around. His sadness and depression continued. Finally, a wise and holy man was called to proffer a solution. This sage suggested to the king, “If you want to be a happy man, you have to wear the shirt of the happiest man in your kingdom.” The king immediately ordered his servants to go in search of the happiest man, so that they could bring his shirt to the king. Finally, they found the happiest man in the remotest village, but they could not carry out the instruction of the wise man. The reason was that the happiest man did not have a shirt.
The Sermon on the Mount by Jesus is the most radical teaching of all time. It is called the beatitudes. In this teaching, found in the Gospel of Matthew 5:1-12, Jesus provided a clear roadmap to happiness. Wise people who carefully reflect on these beatitudes will find in it an embodiment of wisdom. These beatitudes, like some other teachings in the Scriptures appear to be paradoxes. In English Literature, a paradox is a statement that appears to be a contradiction, but contains truth. A paradox simply puts logic on its head. It contradicts conventional thinking and turns logic upside down. For example, the beatitudes go 360 degrees against the worldly standard of happiness and suggests ways of happiness that are strange to people who consider themselves intelligent and smart in worldly affairs. The world tells us that the road to happiness is TO HAVE MORE (money, power and material possessions), Jesus says the way to happiness is TO BE MORE (humble and merciful). According to Jesus, each of the 8 milestones to happiness has a corresponding reward that follows it.
1. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
2. Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
3. Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
4. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
5. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
6. Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
7. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
8. Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The poor in spirit are those who have discovered that real happiness and riches are found in God alone. They are people who have adopted a lifestyle of spiritual childlikeness in God’s sight. The poor in spirit are like the people prophet Zephaniah called the ‘Anawim’ (also known as the poor of Yahweh or the remnant of Israel). They were those who remained faithful (faithful remnant) until the coming of the Lord. They were the lowly, humble and obedient few that thirsted for righteousness, who mourned against the unjust society, who were meek in the face of persecution. Prophet Zephaniah called on the faithful, “Seek Yahweh all you humble [anawim] of the earth who obey his commands. Seek uprightness, seek humility: you may perhaps find shelter on the day of God’s anger” (Zephaniah 2:3). The Apostle Paul explains why God blesses the poor in spirit and the lowly of the society. He chooses the weak in order to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27).
The meek are those who take the path of gentleness in a world that prescribes aggression, bullying, force and violence. The gentle would only suffer temporal defeat, but at the end, the world shall see their victory, because the victory of violence is only temporary, but the victory of gentleness lasts longer. Things taken by force, by hook and crook do not last long. The blessings of God that come by trickles, slowly, gently and steadily last longer.
Is it not strange to hear Jesus say, “Blessed are those who mourn…”? He means those whose broken hearts, and whose sorrows bring them closer to God. After Peter denied Jesus, he wept bitterly (Matthew 26:75). He mourned for his sins with regret and remorse. Wise people say the eyes that have shed tears see more clearly.
In a world of corruption, Jesus wants his followers to continue to hunger and yearn for justice and righteousness. The Psalmist expresses the hunger of a soul that is thirsty “Like a dry weary land without water (Psalm 63:1). Paul encourages those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, never to get tired of (yearning) and doing the right thing (2 Thessalonians 3:13).
Jesus further states that the roadmap to happiness is that of mercy. Mercy is more than forgiveness. The Hebrew word for mercy is Hesed (Loving kindness). Therefore, the mercy that Jesus prescribes is showing concern (compassionate attention) for the physical and spiritual plight of other people.
In addition, the road to happiness is to be clean in heart. A pure heart is a clear conscience, a good will and good intention towards others. A pure heart also implies inner purity and purity of intention and single-mindedness in the service of God and neighbour. Cleanliness (internal and external), we say is next to godliness.
More still, Jesus is aware that the world is full of troubles and conflicts. Therefore, he extends special blessing to those who follow the way of peace, by spending their time and expending their energy and talent in living peacefully with others and in promoting peace between people.
Furthermore, Jesus gives double blessings to those who are under the weight of severe persecution, because of their faith and good works. He says, “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad for your reward would be great in heaven.”
Attitude shape us in a lot of ways and in order to be happy, we have to re-evaluate our attitude towards life, towards others, towards money, etc. Negative attitudes are like flat tyres that take us nowhere. The beatitudes are the roadmap to happiness. They are 8 positive and godly attitudes that lead to happiness. The beatitudes are therefore, the best attitudes in life.
4th Sunday of the Year A; Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Matthew 5:1-12