Preached at Holy Sepulcher Parish on January 28, 2017 at 4:00PM and January 29 at 8:00am and 10:30am Masses
A man was having another bad day, so he stopped at a restaurant to have dinner and a few glasses of his favorite beverage. As he waited for his dinner and for the waitress to return to refill his already empty glass, he looked at the walls of the restaurant which were covered with old items like road signs, hubcaps, and rusty tools like you would see at
a Cracker Barrel. On the wall was a very old lamp. He wiped the dust from it to look at and instantly a genie appeared and said, “For freeing me from the lamp, I grant you three wishes.” The man thought for a moment and replied, “I have only one wish. I want to be happy.” “Excellent! I will grant you three things that will make you happy,” said the genie. The man looked over at his empty glass and said, “I would be happy if my glass was full.” “Excellent! Your glass will always be full!” and instantly his glass was full. The man picked up the glass and drank it. It was by far the best he had ever tasted. It was so good he downed the entire glass all at once. He set the glass down and instantly it filled up again. The genie then said, “You have two more wishes.” The man did not hesitate, “Are you kidding me? I’ll take two more of those!”
In today’s gospel Jesus talks about the Beatitudes. A word that comes from the Latin word for happiness. Just like the man at the restaurant, everyone wants to be happy. We don’t wake up in the morning and say, “I’m going to be miserable today!” We all want to be happy. But what is happiness?
Each year on Ash Wednesday I read the Peanuts book Happiness Is a Warm Puppy to the Holy Sepulcher kindergarten students. The book says that happiness is getting an “A” on your spelling test, climbing a tree, a fuzzy sweater, or lots of candles of your birthday cake, although for those of us that have a bonfire on our cake this might make us unhappy. After I am done reading the students talk about the different things that make them happy: their family, their pet, or a favorite food, sport, or activity. They all say wonderful things, but they all say something different.
But what makes you happy? If you found a lamp, rubbed it, and a genie popped out and gave you three wishes, what would you ask for? Maybe simply enjoying a good beverage, like the man with the genie. Maybe to travel the world, receive a promotion, buy a sports car, or become famous. Maybe it would be to win the lottery. A research study found that 90% of large lottery jackpot winners were unhappy and wished they had never won the money.
But I think we look at happiness in the wrong way. If we achieve this, or do that, or experience this, or own that, then we will be happy, or if we don’t we will be unhappy. If the Steelers beat the Patriots, you will be happy, if not you will be unhappy. There were so many unhappy people at work on Monday. By looking at happiness in this way sets you up for a lot of disappointment, because a good portion of your happiness is completely out of your control. But Jesus gives us the beatitudes so that we can take control of our happiness. The Beatitudes are a way of living, a path to true and lasting happiness, because they lead us to God and true and lasting happiness. The Beatitudes are about how we are to be and what attitude we should have. Be-Attitude.
But on the surface the beatitudes do not seem very happy, do they? Jesus talks about being poor, sad, hungry, thirsty, insulted, persecuted, and attacked. He is describing the worst day ever. It would be impossible to be happy having a day filled with those things. But true happiness starts with the first beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It is not about being rich or poor, those who have stuff and those who do not, it is about those who have God and those who do not. The poor in spirt are those who humble themselves before God and recognizing Him in their life.
Each one of us has an infinite hole inside of us that we spend much of our time trying to fill with money, possessions, and activities. We think these things will make us happy and they do, but the more we get, the more we want and the worse we feel. So many people suffer from drug, alcohol, and other addictions trying to fill that hole. The man used his three wishes trying to fill that hole with his favorite beverage. Only God can fill the infinite emptiness inside of us.
The other beatitudes are all related to the first, and provide additional details about our path to God. To avoid us being here all night I will talk about just a few of them. You will notice that the next beatitude talks about mourning. Having God in our lives does not mean that our lives are perfect, nothing ever goes wrong, and we are never sad. We are going to have tough times and bad things are going to happen. The beatitudes call us to live our lives knowing that God comforts us, looks out for us, and has a plan for us. It is living with faith and hope instead of doubt and despair, two things that always make us unhappy.
Another beatitude talks about mercy, but refers to so much more. It’s serving others with the corporal and spiritual works of mercy: to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, comfort the afflicted, to forgive, bear wrongs patiently, pray, etc. More important than the good feelings you will have doing these things, you will be sharing the love and mercy of God with others, bringing them closer to God and brining God closer to yourself. It’s about bringing happiness to others.
Another beatitude says, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Be the peace you want to see in the world. Be the change you want to see in the world. If you want to be loved, love. If you want mercy, be merciful. If you want to be forgiven, forgive. If you want happiness, be happy. Again, be-attitude.
What makes you happy? What wishes would you want granted? If what makes you happy are things that you can achieve or do or experience or own, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. But if happiness is your way of being, your attitude, your be-attitude, if you seek God, live your life with faith and hope, sharing love, mercy, and forgiveness with others, then you are going to be comforted, satisfied, and all the other good things mentioned in today’s gospel.
The beatitudes end with “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” The ultimate blessing promised by Jesus in the beatitudes is that the infinite holes we have inside of us will be filled with God and his everlasting happiness for all of eternity.
The beatitudes are our path to God. Rejoice and be glad!