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The Declaration of Independence of the United States proclaims that people are endowed by their creator to have the unalienable right to pursue happiness. Striving for happiness can be expensive for many. Some people forget and forsake all else for the sake of happiness. Often we view happiness as an end in itself, forgetting that happiness can serve a greater end, and that end we call life.
In the Sermon on the Mount our Lord Jesus Christ offers a plan for happiness, which many times seems to be at odds with the perspective offered by the world. Rather than focusing on pride, Jesus recommends being humble. Rather than pushing for pleasure or possessions Christ says true joy is found by helping others. Instead of pushing others out of our way, Jesus tells us to minister to them. His prescription for happiness seems to be at odds with the rest of the world.
Today as we are winding down our Lenten journey, taking those final steps on the road toward Holy Week we start putting pieces together. Fragments seem to collide with each other, right before our eyes. We have a new understanding of what that happiness is all about.
You were given this prescription at an early age, you probably read it several times, heard in many times but never made the connection that it was a prescription. It is a special healing for each and every one of us. It is an opportunity for us to connect to something greater than ourselves. It is a prescription for happiness. We call it the “Beatitudes.”
In the Sermon on the Mount (chapter 5 of the Gospel of St. Matthew) Jesus utters these words and speaks to the heart of a hurting people. He speaks to the soul of a people who need healing. These people are not members of any particular ethnic group. In fact, these people are all of us, they are you and me. Through the centuries we have opened these pages and have been inspired and found hope in tomorrow. In the dreams that we dream and surely those dreams being actualized are the happiness that you and I seek.
Today as you and I are finishing this Lenten season let us read the Beatitudes – this prescription for happiness. As you read, take your time to meditate on how these words speak to you. Contemplate the meaning of the words today and how they might have been interpreted before you started the Lenten Journey. We have tried to alienate ourselves from the pace of everyday life, and we have found a life that is full and rich. It is full of sacrifice, as our Lord Jesus Christ says, “He who is going to follow me must pick up his cross and follow me.” Further He sets a beautiful gardening metaphor for growth, by saying, “Unless a grain of wheat falls in the earth and dies it remains a single seed, but when it does die it produces much harvest.” Jesus in talking about His own resurrection, invites us to participate in a life of giving, of loving. It is a life of sharing, which makes it a life of fullness, where real happiness is instilled in our heart and can never be taken away.
The Beatitudes are the hope that Jesus gives us.
You who have gone through 38 days of the Lenten season with heightened prayer, with fasting with giving of charity. You will hear these words for the first time in a new manner as a prescription and formula for sacrifice, love and happiness. Let us pray the Beatitudes:
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 earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.