There is no person in this church who doesn’t want to be happy. We all long for and search for happiness. Some people search for instant happiness: “I’m only going_to be young once – I need to live it up.” Other people search for happiness in an affluent lifestyle. Still others search for happiness – even if destroys the well-being of others.

The readings chosen for Mass today offer the only plan that can guarantee happiness.

In our Old Testament reading, Jeremiah offers his ideas on lasting happiness. His observation is: “Unhappy is the person who trusts in human beings alone.” Jeremiah compares such a person to a shrub in the desert: with no water – it will die. On the other hand, the prophet says: “Happy is the person who trusts in the Lord.” Such a person is like a fruitful tree that is planted beside running water: its roots are deep and are able to reach the moisture of the stream. Jesus called His disciples as well as each one of us to such a relationship with Him.

In the Gospel today, Jesus contrasts two groups of people: The first group He calls “Blessed” and the second group He calls “Cursed”.

The people labeled “blessed” are the poor, the hungry, the sorrowful and the persecuted.

Those labeled “cursed” are: the rich, the satisfied, the happy and the popular  – just the opposite of what we would expect. Jesus calls the first group “blessed”, not because He considers deprivation, hunger or sorrow good things; but because people in such situations of want and need have room in their lives for God.

They do not have lives so full of possessions, power and success that they have no room left for anything or anyone else including God.

The second group – those Jesus condemns – are not “cursed” because they have had good fortune and success in life; but because good fortune, wealth and success make it difficult for people to realize their need for God: after all – who needs God when you think that you have everything that life has to offer.

If we need proof of what Jesus is saying, just consider the nations of the world where the Gospel is flourishing – areas like Africa, Latin America, and parts of the former Soviet Union. 1.2 billion peoplelive in absolute poverty. One billion people (one third under the age of two) are malnourished or face starvation. In 43 countries of the world, 42% of the people die before the age of five.

In these places which we would consider poor and underdeveloped, the Kingdom of God is growing.

On the contrary, areas of the world considered to be rich and powerful like our own country, France, England and Germany are the very places where the Gospel has been pushed into the background and made irrelevant in daily life.

In Today’s Gospel, Jesus warns us that prosperity, wealth, popularity and success may not be the blessings they appear to be; and poverty and need may not be the curse we might imagine them to be.

When Jesus was talking to the multitude on the plateau of the mountain-side, He was presenting a set of values for them and for each generation to live by. He was telling them and us that life is not just about acquiring material possessions and wealth, or being popular, or living a life without having a care in the world, where we call all the shots and never have to do anything we don’t want to do.

Jesus warns that those who live that kind of life-style, are already enjoying their reward here and now in this lifetime. To choose living according to the values of the Gospel is to choose a more difficult path.

  • The poor know that they must depend on God for all things.
  • The hungry know that they must be filled with grace, truth and love to sustain them.
  • The weeping know, like Jeremiah, the unhappiness that comes from straying from God.

The disciples of Jesus know that happiness comes from carrying the Cross. To choose to live according to Gospel values is to choose life – life with the Risen Lord – empowered by the Holy Spirit.

At the beginning of His Public ministry, Jesus said to some fisherman: “I know that your way of life means a lot to you, but give it up and follow Me.” To a rich young man He said: “Give up all your wealth and power and follow me: they are excess baggage. When you travel with Me, you travel light.

Jesus was a threat to the lifestyles of many people He met. These people were frozen in the status quo. They were unwilling to take a risk and change their lives. Jesus is interested in risk-takers!

In the eyes of Jesus, people truly blessed are those who have room in their lives for God. Those who are cursed are those who have no room for God. Where do you fit into the picture? S

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