By Fr. Divya Paul
It happens, just as your cup of happiness is full and you finally sit back to enjoy it, somebody bumps your elbow! Happiness can be an elusive thing. I often wonder how you would measure happiness. What is your picture of a happy life? Where are the places you visit to find happiness, the movie theater, the amusement park, mountain hiking trail, the shopping mall, a good restaurant, a pub, a drive with a friend? Or maybe for you it’s not the place so much as the circumstances that you hope will make you happy. Are you looking for happiness in your relationships, or your family life? Or perhaps waiting for happiness to return with the change of circumstances, like the restoration of your health, or your financial situation, or finding the right job, or the right romance. Where do you look for happiness?
Jesus gave us a picture of a happy life that was very different. Jesus told us that we can find happiness in strange places. In his defining message, the Kingdom Manifesto, commonly called The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus begins with those familiar words “blessed are.” Modern translators have often used the words “happy” or “fortunate” instead of “Blessed” as a translation to the term Jesus used.
The beatitudes are not a series of commands, but blessings that are described and the promises associated with the attitudes that are rewarded with these blessings. The beatitudes describe the kind of person who will receive the blessings of God. The beatitudes identify a series of qualities that produce happiness, even though happiness is not readily apparent. Jesus gave us an unconventional perspective on happiness where he introduces us to a whole new approach to life.
Happiness is found where there is . . . Spiritual Poverty
Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The only people who can truly experience the “blessedness” or “happiness” that Jesus offers are those who know they cannot achieve it on their own. The word he chose for “poor” was not the word for the working poor who scraped by and made enough to survive. The word he chose was for the beggarly poor who could not make it without outside assistance. Poverty of spirit is the foundation of all other spiritual graces. All other gifts of God come only to the degree that we recognize that we are poor in spirit. We do not receive the gifts of God based on merit. We receive the gifts of God based on faith. This faith is a humble reliance upon God’s goodness rather than our own. The world might opinion that the rich and famous and self sufficient and proud are happy. Jesus says just the opposite. We will never be blessed until we see our poverty of spirit. We will never lean upon God until we see that we need Him. Jesus was telling us that we cannot be filled till we are emptied.
Happiness is found where there is . . .Sadness.
Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
How can happiness be found in the place of sadness? Jesus is saying to us that there is a hidden blessing in mourning. Everyone now knows thanks to psychologists that mourning and tears are part of the grieving process. It is part of our healing. Jesus is talking about how those who mourn over their spiritual poverty, their personal sin, are the ones who are blessed by God. People who don’t mourn over their own sin don’t understand their own sin. People like this look at the disasters of the world and the evil of the world and settle into a rage that can be counterproductive.
An editor of a magazine once asked the question in one of his editorials “What is wrong with this world?” This is a question we all ask when we try to puzzle through the horrible events of terror, Crime and Violence. But G. K. Chesterton gave a very short and surprising answer to the editor. The letter to the editor read this way:
Regarding your article “What’s Wrong with the world?” I am.
G. K. Chesterton.
Until we mourn our sin, we will not be set free from it. Until we mourn over our sin, we will not be able to properly respond in mourning over the sins of our world. Until we see ourselves as part of the problem, we cannot ourselves become part of the solution. Until we ourselves go through the process of receiving the answer to our problem, we will not be able to offer the answer to anyone else.
Happiness is found where there is . . .Humility
Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
To the modern mind meekness is a quality to avoid. To the worldly minded, meekness is weakness. But this just isn’t true. Meekness is not weakness. Meekness is power under complete control. Meekness is not for the faint-hearted or timid. Try to follow Jesus’ example of meekness. Can you turn the other cheek when someone slaps you unjustly? Can you control yourself to give back good for evil? Do you have such self control? Can you go the second mile, when someone is forcing you to go the first? These are all responses of meekness. These are responses that say, “I am going to do what is best for you even though you don’t deserve that.” Meekness is power under control. Meekness is perhaps best seen in the raw power of the wild horse that has been subdued and gentled by his master. His power becomes completely useful to his master because he is now gentle, submissive, and has become meek.
Happiness is found where there is . . .Hunger
The worldly thinker looks at happiness in opposite terms. Happy are the full and satisfied. Jesus turns this upside down. He says, happiness is found in strange places. Happiness is found in the place of hunger.
Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
The hunger referred to here is not the rumble of one’s tummy by a missed meal, but the gnawing hunger that results from deprivation of another sort, a hunger and thirst for righteousness. Contrast the self satisfied with the hungry. Jesus says the self satisfied are not going to be happy, only those who are not self satisfied will be blessed. In our hunger for righteousness you actually train your appetite to crave that which is good. And for Jesus that is the desire to make it good for the other. It is a great and happy place to find yourself when you start craving and hungering for the right things.
Happiness is found where there is . . .Forgiveness
Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Most will agree that mercy is a blessing when you receive it, but here Jesus says, blessed is those who give it. We want to receive mercy, but when injustice strikes, that’s probably not the thing we want to extend. We stay unhappy for years because of the hurt that was inflicted upon us. We never felt peace, until we finally forgave the person who hurt us deeply. Maybe that person didn’t even know, or didn’t even care, but we knew, and we cared, and forgiveness was the way we were finally released. Happiness is found in strange places. It is found in the tears of forgiveness and release. Since Christ could forgive us what we did to him, we can forgive others. As we have been extended mercy, we become empowered to extend mercy to someone else.
Happiness is found where there is . . . Purity of Heart
Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Purity isn’t popular. The popular movies and media don’t think so. Jesus wants us to guard our hearts. The pure in heart are morally pure, honest and sincere. What is true on the outside is true on the inside as well. In fact if we focus on the attitude of Christ, our actions will take care of themselves. If we focus on a heart like Christ’s we will find that our actions will follow suit. We will become people of integrity.
Happiness is found where there is . . .Conflict.
Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Jesus did not say, “Blessed are the peace-lovers.” Everybody enjoys peace. Making peace often means stepping into the conflict in order to make peace. Reconciliation often requires confrontation. Peace lovers avoid confrontation. It is too uncomfortable and unsettling. Peacemakers risk themselves by entering the tunnel of chaos to come through to the other side to work toward reconciliation. If we dare to make peace, then we will be given the greatest compliment a person may know on earth. We will be called “sons of God.”
Happiness is found where there is . . .Mistreatment.
Matthew 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Everyone views suffering as an indicator that something is wrong. But Jesus shows that suffering mistreatment like this may be an indicator that something is right! This kind of suffering does not indicate God’s displeasure, but marks people as truly those who are like Jesus and approved by God. Christians are citizens of another kingdom, yet we live in this hostile kingdom. This fact results in clashes and mistreatments. Jesus says, don’t look around and wonder what you are doing wrong when you are mistreated. You might be doing it right. Those who are effectively living the Christian life will be living through difficulties and hardship. Some of these hardships will be caused directly because of the stand we take.
Persecution can be a character builder. It becomes a visible proof of our allegiance to Christ. Often the persecuted church is a more pure church. Persecution can make us a more effective witness.
That’s the picture of the happy life that Jesus presents to us. You can find Happiness in strange places.
Fr. Divya Paul is a priest of the Archdiocese of Bangalore and currently the Parish Priest of St. Anthony’s Church, Kavalbyrasandra. He is also the Archdiocesan Youth Director and Editor of Tabor Kirana. He is a practicing psychotherapist and Visiting Professor of Psychology and Psychotherapy at many higher educational Institutions and Seminaries with a PhD in Counselling Psychology.