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“Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them: How happy are poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Happy are you who are hungry now you shall be satisfied. Happy are those who mourned, they shall be comforted”!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: Amen. Good morning dear people of God! Today is the 4th Sunday of the year A as most of us have known by now already.From time immemorial philosophers and theologians have expressed the view that the one thing people desire more than any other thing else is happiness. It is in search of happiness that people do most of the things that they do. It is the reason why people work, play, marry and even pray. They just want to be happy, even if they don’t always say it. Even the Catechism that most of us as adult Catholics learnt in our childhood supports that view. To the question “Why did God make you?” the Catechism responds: “God made me to know him, to love him, to serve him in this world, and to be happy with him forever in the next.”

Now, when we come to the question of what really constitutes happiness, what is the content of happiness, what is it that really does make people happy, there has been no agreement either among the philosophers nor theologians: Some have said that happiness consists in having a lot of possessions such as money, houses or Cars, while others have maintained that it is to be found in power or authority e.g. positions, promotions or being in charge. Yet others have advanced the view that pleasure is what gives happiness e.g. food, drinks, drugs, sex and still another school of thought has put forward knowledge as the storehouse of happiness. One particular view that is attractive is the one that says “happiness resides in service”. It was advanced by a philosopher—physician called Albert Schweitzer in the following statement: “

I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know; the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”

It would seem that for Jesus none of the above views was perfect, except perhaps the last. So he offered his own position. For Jesus, happiness consists in possession of the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God. That is what we learn from our Gospel reading of today in the famous Eight Beatitudes. (The “Eight Happiness”, since the Latin word Beatitudo means “happiness”). If we have the kingdom of God or we are in the kingdom of God, that is when we shall be really happy, and nothing will be able to take that happiness away from us: not poverty, not hunger or thirst, not even persecution.

Let me ask you people this important question. And the question is this: Is it possible for one to be poor or for one to be hungry, for one to be in suffering and yet such a person will consider himself or herself being in state of happiness or being blessed by God? Let me put the question the other way round. Imagining yourself walking on a road and you meet a person. After the usual salutation, he says this to you. May you be poor for the rest of your life! May God see that you are hungry for the rest of your days here on earth! May bad things continue to happen to you and your family members that will make you people cry and cry forever! Would you consider these words as blessings or curses? To be honest with you people, if I am the one, I will not only consider this as curse but I will fight any person who will say such a thing to me. I also think that many of you here will react in the same way as me. And we shall be right. Do you know why we shall be right? It is because our culture has taught us that to be blessed by God means to be rich, always having enough to eat and drink. To be happy means to be without difficulties, without tears or troubles, sufferings or pains. The beatitudes as contained in the Gospel reading of today teach us Christians something different.The message of the Gospel is that it is possible for one to be poor and be blessed by God the father. That is possible for one not to have enough to eat or to drink and yet such a person will be very important in the sight of God. That is possible for one to face difficulties in this world and at the same time being an intimate friend of God. The bible is full examples: Abraham our father in faith, Israelites in Egypt, and all the Apostles in the earlier Church. This is exactly what Simon Tugwell meant when he said: “The beatitudes are a call to see ourselves, to live with ourselves in a way that is probably does to come easily to most of us” in manner we expect. This means that the person is being blessed here and now.This is the most important of all reasons, the beatitudes are not pious hopes of what shall be; they are not gleaming, and vague prophecies of some future bliss; they are congratulations on what it is. This means that the blessedness which belongs to the Christian is not a blessedness which is postponed to some future world of glory; it is a blessedness which exists here and now. It is not something into which the Christian will enter; it is something into which he has entered already.True, it will find its fullness and its consummation in the presence of God; but for all that it is a present reality to be enjoyed here and now. The beatitudes in effect say, “O the bliss of being a Christian! O the joy of following Christ! O the sheer happiness of knowing Jesus Christ as Master, Saviour and Lord!” The very form of the beatitudes is the statement of the joyous excitement and the radiant gladness of the Christian life. In face of the beatitudes a gloom-encompassed Christianity is unthinkable.

The word blessed, which is used in each of the beatitudes, is a very special word. The Greek word is makarios. Makarios is the word, which specially describes the gods. In Christianity there is a godlike joy. Makarios then describes that joy which has its secret within itself, that joy which is serene and untouchable, and self-contained, that joy which is completely independent of all the chances and the changes of life. The Christian blessedness is completely untouchable and irrefutable. “No one,” says Jesus, “will take your joy from you” (Jn.16:22). The beatitudes speak of that joy which seeks us through our pains, that joy which sorrows and losses, and pains and grief are powerless to touch, that joy which shines through tears, and which nothing in life or death can take away.This world can win its joys, and the world can equally lose its joys as well. This explains a change in fortune, a collapse in health, and the failure of a plan, the disappointment of an ambition, even a change in the weather, can take away the fickle joy the world can give. But the Christian has the serene and untouchable joy, which comes from walking forever in the company and in the presence of Jesus Christ or God. The greatness of the beatitudes is that they are not wishful glimpses of some future beauty; they are not even golden promises of some distant glory; they are triumphant shouts of bliss for a permanent joy that nothing in the world can ever take away.

In conclusion the beatitudes are golden rules for happiness. The blessed may be poor in riches but they don’t mind it because they trust in a caring God and so they are happy. The blessed may happen to be materially rich, but because they are poor in spirit the result is that God becomes so dear to them that wealth means nothing to them and therefore they are happy. They may be in sorrow, but realize that they are sharing in Christ’s own sorrow and hence they are happy. In their hunger and thirst for God they do not mind the deprivation of worldly pleasures because they are enriched by the friendship of God and hence they are happy. They are so merciful that they may look like soft-hearted fools to the proud but they are sure of receiving God’s mercy assuring them eternal life and hence they are happy. Ten Commandments alone are not the recipe for happiness. They are only foundations for it. They mostly tell us what not to do and what not to be. The Beatitudes on the other hand tell us what to do and what to become. They counsel attitudes and actions which are the flowering of every virtue leading us to a blessed state. Have an amazing Sunday and a joyful week.

+Ab Matthew Audu – Jos –

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