A Life That Leads to Happiness
Jesus taught his disciples how they were to live in order to achieve the fullness of life and happiness that is God’s will for all people. He did this by his own way of life and by his words. His teaching flowed from the tradition of ancient Israel but he also deepened that teaching and perfected it. A good illustration of this is his Sermon on the Mount narrated in the Gospel of St. Matthew.
These are called Beatitudes. The word Beatitude refers to a state of deep happiness or joy. These Beatitudes are taught by Jesus as the foundations for a life of authentic Christian discipleship and the attainment of ultimate happiness. They give spirit to the Law of the Ten Commandments and bring perfection to moral life. That spirit is ultimately the spirit of love. Jesus taught that love is at the heart of all law.
Jesus describes those who are truly fortunate, the lucky ones of their day. But it is not emperors, conquerors, priests, and the wealthy who enjoy this favour. Rather, it is the common people, those whom earthly success has largely passed by: the poor, the meek, the persecuted, the peacemakers. How can this be? Because though they may have been denied worldly success, what cannot be taken away from them is their potential to live rightly by one another.
It is all too easy for those who enjoy the pleasures of this world to try to float above such obligations. Jesus goes on to say that so long as ordinary people stand for the right things and do not retreat in their rightness before those who seem to have more power, what is right will prevail.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus offers a description of the community of goodwill his teaching will build in this world. It is kingdom — a kingdom organised and given to us by God.
Jesus calls those who belong in these categories “Blessed”, in Matthew 5:112 (same translation). The sense of the term here is “fortunate” or “prosperous.” Who are the lucky ones? The “poor in spirit” are prosperous; “those who mourn” are fortunate; so are “the gentle”; and “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”; and “the merciful”; and “the pure in heart”; and “the peacemakers”; and “those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness”.
Finally, says Jesus, “fortunate are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. ”
It is not enough only to hear these pronouncements. While the Beatitudes are not entrance requirements, they do offer an invitation to us to respond to Jesus’ announcement of the Kingdom of Heaven. As Jesus pronounces the availability of the kingdom to all, he offers the way to life. Jesus teaches the transformation of the heart by the arrival of the kingdom of heaven, which will then direct the transformation of the entire person—word, thought, action, and deeds. This had been God’s intention from the original creation, but now with arrival of the kingdom of heaven in the ministry of Jesus, discipleship to him will bring perfect relation between inner and external life. The Beatitudes are statements of reality about the kind of characteristics that will be produced in the disciple who participates in kingdom life.
Blessed Life to you,