January 30, 2011
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of rightousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter all kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”
Introductory Prayer: Father, you dwell in heaven with all your blessed ones. I believe that through Christ you are calling me to be holy and happy, both in this life and in the next. I love you and wish to correspond better to the many graces you shower upon me.
Petition: Lord Jesus Christ, grant me to love and adopt your beatitudes as my standard for life.
1. Beatitudes of the World
There is nothing more human than the pursuit of happiness. Life without happiness is a cruel existence. Liberty without the possibility of happiness is an illusion. Now, according to the world’s standards, it seems that being happy consists in one or more of the following: wealth, fame, power, physical and mental health, pleasure and/or calmness of mind. Even a Christian can easily slide into this way of thinking, implicitly making these values the standards for his or her happiness. For these are the beatitudes of the world, the beatitudes that the media capitalizes on, the beatitudes of power politics, the beatitudes of merely earthly success. It is this set of values with which the world will judge “quality of life” — what a life is “worth.”
2. A New Model
The beatitudes that Christ lays down in this Gospel passage are not just a bunch of airy and abstract principles. Rather, the first Blessed One is Christ himself. This new set of values –– being poor in spirit, meek, hungry for righteousness, pure of heart, etc. –– these are simply aspects of his own life. Put yourself in the scene on the mountain with Christ, and allow yourself to be struck, along with the people who saw and heard him, by the fact that Christ is happy, extremely happy. He exudes a profound interior freedom that allows him to devote himself entirely to serving God and others. The world and its pomp have no hold on him. Listening to Christ, you are drawn to exclaim, “This man knows what he is talking about. He knows what heaven is like. He knows firsthand that heavenly blessedness far outstrips any worldly happiness I could imagine.”
3. Personal Value System
Our contemplation of Christ cannot leave us unchanged today. We need to resolve to adopt the standards that Christ sets before us. If we want to be happy like Christ, we need to make his beatitudes our very own standards for life. Nietzsche got it wrong when he thought that Christian values were mere “consolation prizes” for those who could not make it in the world. No, rather a Christian wants to imitate the happiest man that ever lived: Jesus. If we have to make a choice between grasping for power and striving for spiritual poverty, between worldly success and working for justice, between unbridled sensual pleasure and being clean of heart, between getting along with the world and being persecuted for Christ, let us choose with all our soul the latter. Even here on earth we will experience blessedness, a blessedness that will be completed in heaven.
Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, thank you for being my example of a truly happy person. I see that your standards are radically different from the standards of the world. Enlighten my soul with the wisdom of your beatitudes, and give me the grace to live according to them at all times. Grant me the joy of the blessedness of heaven, and even a share of that blessedness here on earth.
Resolution: I will see which of Christ’s beatitudes challenges my present way of living the most, and I will adopt that beatitude today by applying it to my life in a concrete way.
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