Today, the sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Church invites us to place our trust in God and in his only Son, Jesus Christ. Through his resurrection, Christ conquered death and strengthened our faith and hope of eternal life.
Today’s Readings teach us that true happiness, or beatitude, lies in the awareness that we are all children of a loving Heavenly Father and that we will be happy only when we share our blessings with our brothers and sisters in need, and when we work to uplift them, thus declaring our “option for the poor,” as Jesus did. Contrary to the popular belief, wealth, health, power and influence are not the sources of true happiness. The word “beatitude” means “blessedness” in a double sense: both enjoying God’s favor and enjoying true or supreme happiness.
In the first Reading, Jeremiah tells us that true happiness consists of placing our trust in God and in putting our trust in his promises.
So, today’s first Reading calls us to a very deep reflection. We must ask ourselves in whom and in what have I put my trust? Placing our trust in God is the best approach to life. Certainly, we must make efforts and do what we must do as human beings. However, we must not forget that it is God who sustains, confirms and blesses our ways and efforts. We must be conscious of the fact that without him, we are nothing.
In the second Reading St. Paul warns us that true beatitude is obtainable only in Heaven, and that Christ’s Resurrection gives us assurance of reaching Heaven for an everlasting life of happiness.
Hence, Paul tells us: “If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are the most unfortunate of all people.” In other words, life does not end here. There is something beyond this world, and only our hope in the Resurrected Christ will take us there. Simply put, our journey with Christ does not end here, it transcends this world.
While our first Reading began with a very strong warning against not trusting in God, today’s Gospel begins with a blessing for those who are ready to do God’s will. The beatitude is a great song which calls us to a life of virtue, reflection and total surrender to God’s will.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples in the paradoxical blessedness of poverty, hunger, sorrow, and persecution. “Blessed are those who are poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, insulted and denounced,” because in poverty, we recognize our dependence on God; in hunger, God’s providence; in sorrow for sins, reconciliation with God; and in persecution, the true joy of standing for the Faith with heroic convictions. What makes one blessed is not simply poverty or hunger or sadness or suffering for the Faith but living these in the context of one’s commitment to Jesus and his spirit of sharing. Beatitudes consist in humble selflessness and compassionate, generous sharing of our blessings with the needy. The Beatitudes must be understood as eschatological statements which see and evaluate the present in terms of the future glory and everlasting happiness.
The Church advises us that we need to respond to the challenge of the Beatitudes in our daily lives. Millions are starving, persecuted, homeless, and leading hopeless lives. The only way the promises of the Beatitudes can become a reality for them is through the efforts of people like us. That is why we are told that we will be judged on the basis of our acts of mercy and charity, (Mt 25:31-46). Hence, let us remember that each time we reach out to help the needy, the sick and the oppressed, we share with them a foretaste of the promises of the Beatitudes here and now. Just as the apostles were called to minister to society’s untouchables, all Christians are called to minister to the untouchables, the discriminated against, and the marginalized in our own modern society.
The Church encourages us to light a candle instead of blaming the political set-up. God wants us to live as brothers and sisters who care for each other. This is why down through the centuries, individuals, congregations and Church bodies have practised charity in creative, faithful ways. They have operated meals on wheels, various handouts, clothing centers, homeless shelters, and housing programs. Individuals have taken care of their neighbours helping them out with food, clothing, and shelter when there was a need.
We must take care to choose our way wisely. “There are two ways, one of life and one of death, and there is a great difference between the two ways.” These are the opening lines of the “Didache” a first century Christian catechism used to teach new Christians the essence of the Christian Faith. The way of life is the way of Jesus, the way of the Beatitudes, the way of loving service to God and our brothers and sisters which leads to eternal life. The other way is the way of death. It is the way of self-centeredness, self-reliance, immorality, self-indulgence, and immediate gratification. It leads to death and hell. Which way are we going? The challenge of the Beatitudes is: “Are you going to be happy in the world’s way or in Christ’s way?” If we choose the world’s way, we are seeking our blessings in the wrong place.
Finally, the good news for us today is simple, let nothing in this world rob us of our peace of mind, inner joy and happiness, because our trust is not in this world, nor in man. Rather, our trust is in the crucified and Risen Christ, the savior and hope of the world. The psalmist summarized this good news for us: “Happy the man who has placed his trust in the Lord.”
Fr. Jude CSSp