True Happiness from the Beatitudes
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
There is this song in the 80's composed by Bobby McFerrin, which is very familiar to us. The title of the song is, "Don't Worry, Be Happy." Allow me to read to you some lines of the song and see how it resounds to our current concerns:
Don't Worry, Be Happy
Aristotle once said, “Happiness is that which all [men] seek.” He also observes that everything people do twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, is what they believe will bring them happiness in one way or the other. But at times, what people think will bring them happiness does not, in fact always, bring them true and lasting happiness. For instance, a drug addict, who believes that happiness is found in drugs will take an ecstasy pill or so. As he is driving home, he runs a red light, hits a car and wakes up the following morning in a hospital with plaster and stitches all over his body. Then it dawns on him that the happiness promised by drugs is only transitory. Or take the man who frequents the casino for instant money. By the end of the month he finds that his account is in the red and that he can no longer pay his house rent and eventually loses it. Then he realizes that the happiness promised by the casino is only fleeting. So Aristotle says that the ethical person is the person who knows and does what can truly bring them not just excitement or pleasure but true and lasting happiness.
Another word for true and lasting happiness is “blessedness” or “beatitude.” In today’s gospel, Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount shows that he really wants his followers to have true and lasting happiness. It is the happiness that the world and everything in it cannot give. This state of blessedness is what Jesus calls being in the “Kingdom of God/Heaven”. The eight beatitudes we have in today’s Gospel constitute a road map for anyone who seeks to attain this happiness of the kingdom.
The Eight Beatitudes
But how is true happiness achieved in the Beatitudes? Allow me to focus on two beatitudes out of the 2 main sets of the 8 Beatitudes:
1. From the first set of four beatitudes: Happiness of the poor in spirit. One of the basic lessons we can learn from the Beatitudes is realizing how poor we are in spirit. It is acknowledging our sinfulness, and our total dependence on God’s mercy, as well as His generosity. In short, it could be summed up in “meekness” or “humility.” We can never achieve salvation on our own and must therefore put our complete faith in Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, just as we put our trust in His Father for all our material needs.
In his book, On This Day, Carl D. Windsor includes this anecdote: Even the most devoted couple will experience a “stormy” bout once in a while. A grandmother, celebrating her golden wedding anniversary, once told the secret of her long and happy marriage. “On my wedding day, I decided to make a list of ten of my husband's faults which, for the sake of our marriage, I would overlook,” she said. A guest asked the woman what some of the faults she had chosen to overlook were. The grandmother replied, “To tell you the truth, my dear, I never did get around to listing them. But whenever my husband did something that made me hopping mad, I would say to myself, ‘Lucky for him that's one of the ten!'” Today, the words of the Beatitudes invite us to consider anew our dependence on God, to acknowledge Him as the Supreme Authority in our lives and to recognize in Him the Source of our identity and happiness.
The problem of today’s world is the refusal to trust in God. People put too much attachment to what this world can offer (material things, etc.). These things lead us away from Him and take our attention away from our creator. Even in times when we know we cannot handle life’s trials and struggles we remain stubborn by doing things on our own as if we can do it out of our own human power. Or at times, we wait for these trials to come before we could recognize God’s presence in our midst. Unless, we surrender our lives to Christ as our personal Savior and Guide, true happiness is unattainable.
2. Fronm the second set of beatitudes: The happiness of the pure of heart. What Jesus meant about being pure of heart is that we cannot be happy if we are hypocrites. The pure in heart are morally pure, honest and sincere. The pure of heart is able to discern the presence of God in others and in the small and ordinary events of their lives.
Barbara L. Frederickson, Ph.D., has spent fifteen years studying happiness, and she has reached the conclusion that happiness comes from finding positive meaning in the things that happen to us. You get a flat tire on the way to work. Bad experience. You have a great conversation with the mechanic who comes to fix your flat. Good experience. Your presentation at work didn't wow your colleagues as much as you had hoped it would. Bad experience. You learn valuable lessons from your failure that you can use in making your next presentation. Good experience.
People who find positive meaning, even in bad experiences, has the purest of heart – he/she is able to see the GOOD in his/her life pointing them out with reference to the God who is TRUTH, GOODNESS and BEAUTY!
Today, let us call upon the illuminating grace of the Holy Spirit to teach us how best can we be blessed. Let us yearn for holiness and be willing to be persecuted because of it. Let us crave to be lowly - poor in spirit, to have a pure heart, confident that if we are, we will one day see God. ONLY in that can we find true happiness in the presence of our God and so we pray to realize it.
So, yes, don't worry, be happy ... be blessed!
God bless us all!