4th Sunday in ordinary time Year A

Poor and happy?

 Readings: Zeph 2,3; 3,12-13; Ps 146, 6-10; 1 Cor 1, 26-31; Mt 5, 1-12a

This Sunday [January 29th] we are celebrating the 4th Sunday of the Ordinary time year A. What does it mean to be happy? To be fortunate? Blessed? We tend to think of those with money. We think of those who can afford a nice home, a nice car. We think of the beautiful, those who are so attractive. We also think of the powerful. Those who have access to privilege and status. Are these the things that bring lasting, eternal, happiness? And most importantly, are these the things that Jesus regards as the true marks of happiness? The Gospel from St. Matthew [5:1-12] we hear one of the most familiar texts: the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. St. Matthew writes:  "Jesus went up the mountain." This is most certainly a symbolic statement, implying that He and the crowds would meet God there, as Moses did in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Jesus' sitting down was the common posture of the teacher, and He began to teach them. Through the Beatitudes Jesus shows us ways or keys that open us to happiness. The first four beatitudes [poor in spirit, mourn, meek, and hunger and thirst for righteousness] describe the heart of the person who is rightly related to God.  The remaining beatitudes [merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and the persecuted] describe how such a person relates to other people. In the Beatitudes, Jesus outlines the values and attitudes needed to enter and enjoy God’s kingdom: poverty of spirit, hunger and thirst for justice, compassion, meekness, mercy, integrity, peacemaking and the willingness to suffer persecution for the sake of justice. In poverty, we recognize God’s reign; in hunger, His providence; in sorrow, true happiness; and in persecution, true joy.  In other words, the blessed on Jesus’ list are the poor in spirit, compassionate, meek, merciful, clean of heart and peacemakers and those who are willing even to be insulted and persecuted for their lived Faith in Him. 

Happiness is something that comes from within us. The only truly happy life is a life lived with God as the Source of life and our true center. The Gospel asserts that those who have recognized and acknowledged their dependence on God are the truly blessed and that these are the poor in spirit, the sorrowing, the lowly, those who hunger and thirst for holiness, the merciful, the single-hearted, the peacemakers and those persecuted for their right convictions. Among the Greeks the word “blessed” or “happy,” which is used in each of the beatitudes in the Gospel of St. Matthew is a very special word. In the Greek text it is “makarios.” It meant the happy island- they believed that Cyprus was so a lovely island, so rich and so fertile that a man would never need to go beyond its coastline to find the perfectly happy life. It had such a climate, such flowers and fruits and trees, such materials, such natural resources that it contained within itself all the materials for perfect happiness. Makarios describes that joy which is untouchable and self-contained, that joy which is completely independent of all the chances and changes of life. It is that joy which shines through tears and which nothing in life or death can take away. Our makarios, our happy island is Heaven that is where we shall receive the perfect happy life. 

We all want to be happy. How can we understand that a person can be poor and happy at the same time? In which moments of our life have we felt truly happy? Was it a happiness like the one proclaimed by Jesus in the Beatitudes, or was it of another type?


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