1. Zephania2:3;3:12-13
Gospel: Mt5:1-12

" When and where do we find true happiness?"

It is undeniable fact that which all of us seek. An ancient philosopher, Aristotle once said that everything people do twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, is what they believe they will bring them happiness in one form or another. However, what people think will bring them happiness in fact it does not. For example think of the drunkard who believes that happiness if found in the beer bottle. One bottle too much and he is driving home, runs the traffic red light hits a car and wakes up the following morning in a hospital with plaster and stitches all over his body. Then it begins to dawn on him that the happiness promised by alcohol may be short lived. Thus Aristotle says that the ethical person is the person who knows and does what  can truly bring him not just excitement or pleasure but true and lasting happiness.

What a word can we compare with happiness? certainly that word 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 the happiness the world everything in it  cannot give. This state of blessedness is what Jesus calls being in the " Kingdom of God/heaven. The eight beatitude we have in today's gospel constitute a road map for anyone who seeks to attain this happiness of the kingdom.

Today in the gospel we hear Jesus in his teaching establishing these guide posts to the kingdom right from the very teaching  that he gives to the disciples. This is simply because of the importance of this teaching. Everybody seeks happiness. But often we look for it in the wrong places. Many times try to ask people about what makes them happy, compare their answers with the answer of Jesus concerning the true happiness. The world we live has its own idea of happiness. If a committee were to be set to draw up the beatitudes, we would most probably end up with a list very different from that which Jesus gives us today.

Where Jesus says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit" they would say " Blessed are the rich"
Where Jesus says, "Blessed are those who mourn" they would say " Blessed are those having fun."
Where Jesus says, " Blessed are the meek" they would say " Blessed are the smart"
Where Jesus says, " Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness" they would say " Blessed are those who wine and dine."
Where Jesus says, "Blessed are the merciful" they would say " Blessed are the powerful."
Where Jesus says, "Blessed are the pure in heart" they would say " Blessed are the news makers."
Where Jesus says, " Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake" they would say " Blessed are those who can afford the best lawyers."

We learn that the values of the kingdom of heaven prescribed by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount are in fact counter-cultural. We cannot accept these teachings of Jesus and at the same time accept all the values of the society in which we live. Of course, Jesus does not demand that we abandon the world. But he does demand that we put God first in our lives because only God can guarantee true happiness and peace that our hearts long for. Nothing in the world can give this peace, and nothing in the world can take it away.

The eight Beatitudes do not describe eight different people such that we need to ask which of the eight suits us personally. No, they are eight different snapshots taken from different angles of the same godly person. The question for us today, therefore, is this: " Do we live our lives following the values of the world as a way of attaining happiness or do we live by the teaching of Jesus. If you live by the teaching of Jesus, then rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven.

The beatitudes, therefore, signifies not just sweet religious attitudes of a passive life by which we have to pray and attend Mass everyday due to the belief that it's the surest way to be a perfect disciple of Jesus and the surest way to heaven. That is far from it. Rather, our Christian lives should be direct towards the problems of the world, the conversion of sinners and the missionary tasks of the Church which we support day and night.

Let me finish this sharing by the following story: Once a time there was a group of missionaries who built a hospital for the poor. When it was finished, a group of rich people wants to speak to the missionaries and ask them why they had referred only to the poor, excluding everyone else, since the hospital was supposed to be for everyone. One of the missionaries said to them : " It is true that the hospital is for everyone, including you and everyone will be cared for free  of charge and courteously. But also it is true that for those who are poorest and in greatest need, this hospital is good news of great joy in a special way, for, unlike you, they have had no other place to go. That is why now, they are especially happy. When we built the hospital we had have them especially in our minds and hearts without excluding anyone.

Thus God's reign is offered in a special way to the poor, not because of their poverty but because the kingdom of God is a good news to them. God loves everyone in a non-exclusive way, however He has a preference for the weakest and the oppressed of His children. God has taught both rich and poor to have the same attitude toward each other. So can we now start and reflect on our lives and lifestyles on this teaching, the beatitudes? Are we converted people today? Are we really serious in following Jesus'  footsteps?

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Chapisha Maoni