Sunday, 29 January 2017
Jesus is the 'Blessed', 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
If someone was to say to you, "You're a Christian, How does Jesus tell me I should live?"
I imagine that most of us would START by saying, "Jesus said that you must love God and love your neighbour". However, the point I want to make to you today, is that this is NOT what Jesus said -this is not how Jesus STARTED His explanation of how we should live.
We just heard in today's gospel text how Jesus started His great moral discourse: The great Sermon on the Mount –the long moral discourse He gave near the start of His ministry; and over the next few weeks we are going to hear some of the details of that moral discourse, of that description of how we are to live.
But my point to you today is that Jesus STARTED His moral discourse by addressing something else:
The question of HAPPINESS: How and where do we find happiness?
We just heard ‘the Beatitudes’, ‘blessed are the poor in spirit… etc’,
People often find the Beatitudes rather odd, or not helpful, to be calling the mourners ‘happy’ etc.
I want to point out to you a very ancient teaching about the Beatitudes, but one that most of you may not have heard about, despite the fact that Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict, and Pope Francis have all taught this point:
The point is this: the Beatitudes describe Jesus Christ.
They do not so much describe a package of moral behaviour as they describe a PERSON. They are, as Pope St John Paul II put it, the “self-portrait” of Jesus, of the Lord describing Himself to His disciples. As quoted in the newsletter, Pope Benedict and Pope Francis have made the same point, and it's actually the ancient Patristic interpretation of this text.
‘Blessed are the meek’. Who is THE Meek One? Jesus Christ
Who is the Pure of heart, who is the Merciful, who is the Peacemaker? Jesus
Who is the afflicted, the poor of spirit, the one hungering and thirsting for righteousness? Jesus
Who is the one who suffers? The Lord
In all of this is described our crucified Lord, the Lord who pointed out the path of the Cross to us, who showed us that it is only the Royal Road of the Cross that leads to the Resurrection, that leads to TRUE happiness.
People look for happiness in money, and sex, and pleasure, and beauty.
But it is only TRULY found in Him who Blessedness itself.
What IS true ‘Blessedness’?
True happiness, "blessedness", consists in sharing the very life of God, seeking God and becoming what Scripture calls “partakers in the divine nature”(2 Pet 1:4).
God is happiness itself because (1) He is love, and (2) He is loved, in (3) perfection.
To BE loved, to KNOW we are loved, and to GIVE ourselves in love –this is true spiritual JOY.
In the relationship of the Father and the Son: He is eternally loved and eternally knows Himself to be loved, and rejoices in this in the Holy Spirit.
This is the glorious goal that we are called to, and it is in as much as we possess this that we possess happiness.
BUT to live that out involves turning this world upside down.
To live this out involves dying to ourselves, that we might give ourselves in love.
So, to come back to the opening question: How did Jesus start His explanation of how we should live?
He started it by addressing the universal desire for happiness.
He came to bring true happiness, inverting the values of this world on their head,
dying for us that He might offer a path to follow to a resurrection.
Dying to self-seeking that we might live in meekness, humility, suffering.
Dying to selfish false happiness that we might live in true happiness, the happiness found in Him alone.
Quotes on the Beatitudes by the last three popes:
The Beatitudes “are invitations to discipleship to communion of life with Christ” since they are a “sort of self-portrait of Christ” (John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor (1993) n. 16)
“In truth, the blessed par excellence is only Jesus. He is, in fact, the true poor in spirit, the one afflicted, the meek one, the one hungering and thirsting for justice, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemaker. He is the one persecuted for the sake of justice. The Beatitudes show us the spiritual features of Jesus and thus express his mystery, the mystery of his death and Resurrection, of his passion and of the joy of his Resurrection. This mystery, which is the mystery of true blessedness, invites us to follow Jesus and thus to walk toward it.” (Pope Benedict, Homily for All Saints, 1st Nov 2006)
"In these words is all the novelty brought by Christ, and the whole novelty of Christ is in these words. In fact, the Beatitudes are Jesus’ portrait, his way of life, and they are the way of true happiness, which we also can live with the grace that Jesus gives us."(Pope Francis, General Audience, 6th August 2014)