6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading 1. Jeremiah 17: 5-8.
Reading II. I Corinthians 15: 12, 16-20.
Gospel. Luke 6: 17, 20-26 (Beatitudes)
One of the problems that the Church faces today is that we have lost the meaning of words which were once perfectly clear. For example, I think that "salvation" is one of these words. I would bet that most people don't think of salvation as a goal. However, if we were to discover that salvation only means "happiness" then it's a different story. Who wouldn't want to be happy, especially if the happiness was forever or eternal.
How many best sellers today deal with the search for happiness? How many TV programs are devoted to the same subject? Yet today, despite our advanced technology, our great wealth, and our educational achievements, there is still so much unhappiness in our world.
Happiness is the subject of today's readings from Scripture. It has been said that there are three steps on the stairway to happiness. First, we have to recognize that we can't achieve it on our own. We are finite or imperfect. We just are not equipped with the ability or the tools to do it on our own. This is the message of the first reading from the prophet Jeremiah. In fact, it is the principal message of all the great Old Testament prophets.
Cursed (or unhappy) is the one who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his strength in flesh,
whose heart turns away from the Lord....
Blessed (or happy) is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose hope is the Lord.
In other words, when we seek happiness through money or power or fame or sex or recognition we are bound to fail. Just read the newspapers every day. I know someone who hates her job so much that it is literally making her physically and psychologically ill. Yet, she can't bring herself to leave it because even though she is financially secure, she thinks she needs even more money. She is so unhappy!
In the gospel today Luke brings us the famous Sermon on the Mount. Right before today's reading our Lord had gone up to a mountain to pray. Afterwards he had called his disciples to him and chosen twelve to be His apostles. That's where we begin today. "Jesus came down with the twelve" and began to teach "a great crowd of his disciples and a large number of people" who had come from near and far to hear this wonder worker.
He preaches the "Beatitudes." Beatitude, blessed, bliss all mean happiness. The second step to happiness is to be open to the truth when we hear it. Whenever Jesus speaks to his disciples, we can be sure that He is speaking to us. Luke says "raising his eyes toward his disciples he said,
Blessed (or Happy) are you who are poor...
Blessed (or Happy) are you who are now hungry...
Blessed (or Happy) are you who are now weeping...
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
The road to happiness is not the easy road. Once we're open to the Truth we can then take the third step and apply it in our own lives. The man who marries must give up his own ambitions and dreams, his own life, for his wife: and she must do so also. Parents give up their lives for their children. Who ever said that would be easy? Priests and religious give up their lives in the service of others. St. Paul says that single people even have a greater responsibility or opportunity for self sacrificing love.
I know that today there are many people both Christian and non-Christian who regard Jesus as only a teacher albeit one of the great ones in human history. I suppose that if such people would only follow the teachings of Jesus they would then be able to lead happy and productive lives. However, this point of view tends to downplay the importance and significance of our Lord's Passion, Death, and Resurrection. I think that part of the concern about the film, The Passion of the Christ, stems from an unwillingness to face the fact that Christ was crucified and that He then rose from the dead.
No one in history appreciated the teaching of Jesus more than St. Paul. But Paul always insisted that his preaching was about Christ crucified, and that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then His teachings alone could not have brought us happiness. As he said to the Corinthians in today's reading, "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain..." For us like the early Christians in Corinth this is a great mystery. Why did Jesus have to suffer and die? But for St. Paul Jesus is the fulfillment of all the Jewish prophecies. Christ's resurrection was the proof that He was the Lord of Jeremiah and the other prophets. He suffered to bring us happiness.
Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose hope is the Lord.