Meditation: When you encounter misfortune, grief, or tragic loss, how do you respond? With fear or faith? With passive resignation or with patient hope and trust in God? We know from experience that no one can escape all of the inevitable trials of life - pain, suffering, sickness, and death. When Jesus began to teach his disciples he gave them a "way of happiness" that transcends every difficulty and trouble that can weigh us down with grief and despair. Jesus began his sermon on the mount by addressing the issue of where true happiness can be found. The word beatitude literally means happiness or blessedness. Jesus' way of happiness, however, demands a transformation from within - a conversion of heart and mind which can only come about through the gift and working of the Holy Spirit.
True happiness can only be fulfilled in God
How can one possibly find happiness in poverty, hunger, mourning, and persecution? If we want to be filled with the joy and happiness of heaven, then we must empty ourselves of all that would shut God out of our hearts. Poverty of spirit finds ample room and joy in possessing God alone as the greatest treasure possible. Hunger of the spirit seeks nourishment and strength in God's word and Spirit. Sorrow and mourning over wasted life and sin leads to joyful freedom from the burden of guilt and oppression.
The beatitudes strengthen us in virtue and excellence
Ambrose (339-397 A.D), an early church father and bishop of Milan, links the beatitudes with the four cardinal virtues which strengthen us in living a life of moral excellence. He writes: "Let us see how St. Luke encompassed the eight blessings in the four. We know that there are four cardinal virtues: temperance, justice, prudence and fortitude. One who is poor in spirit is not greedy. One who weeps is not proud but is submissive and tranquil. One who mourns is humble. One who is just does not deny what he knows is given jointly to all for us. One who is merciful gives away his own goods. One who bestows his own goods does not seek another's, nor does he contrive a trap for his neighbor. These virtues are interwoven and interlinked, so that one who has one may be seen to have several, and a single virtue befits the saints. Where virtue abounds, the reward too abounds... Thus temperance has purity of heart and spirit, justice has compassion, patience has peace, and endurance has gentleness." (EXPOSITION OF THE GOSPEL OF LUKE 5.62–63, 68).
No one can live without joy
God reveals to the humble of heart the true source of abundant life and happiness. Jesus promises his disciples that the joys of heaven will more than compensate for the troubles and hardships they can expect in this world. Thomas Aquinas said: "No person can live without joy. That is why someone deprived of spiritual joy goes after carnal pleasures." Do you know the joy and happiness of hungering and thirsting for God alone?
"Lord Jesus, increase my hunger for you and show me the way that leads to everlasting happiness and peace. May I desire you above all else and find perfect joy in doing your will."
This reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager, whose website is located at: http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/