Happiness: Now or Later?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012 by Food for Thought

FirstReading: 1 Cor 7:25-31
Psalm: Ps 45:11-12, 14-15, 16-17
Gospel: Lk 6:20-26

The beatitudes, as they are given by Matthew, are spiritual attitudes required for entrance into the kingdom of God. “Blessed are the poor in spirit … blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Luke’s beatitudes, however, address people who here and now are poor, hungry, painfully sad, people who are hated because of Jesus. These people, Jesus says, are blessed. In what sense are they blessed?

Luke then shows Jesus pronouncing his “woes.” He takes the same concrete approach as with the beatitudes. You are cursed, you who here and now are rich, who have full bellies, who now laugh, who are praised. Cursed? In what sense are they cursed?

What’s behind Jesus’ values? What does he see in poverty, in hunger, in sadness and in persecution that he should think them blessings from God? Are we to embrace destitution? Are we to give up our efforts to raise the poor out of their poverty? Are we to starve ourselves? Are we to search out sorrow and persecution?

Fr. Donders suggests that the people Jesus is addressing have come out purposely to listen to him. Jesus gives them hope. They want their lives changed. They’re longing for integrity in their world, respect for human dignity, justice for the oppressed, joy in living. They want Jesus to tell them how they are to bring about these changes. These people are blessed, therefore, because they know what society lacks and because they want change, newness in their lives. Those who are
complacent about the present situation, who themselves are comfortable, not at all hungry, in no danger of persecution, they don’t come out to listen to Jesus. They’re quite happy with the status quo. They’re cursed, Jesus says, because they’re living in the present and have no hope for the future.

A question each of us has to answer: Which of these value-sets do we embrace as our own?

  • Laura

    This is a unique point of view that I sure never thought of before. It’s great food for thought. Thank you for printing it.

    However, I always thought that Jesus’ words in the gospel today was meant to give hope to people who were feeling down, or hopeless. Hope that things will not always be the way they are now. That there is such a thing as divine justice. Our sufferings are not in vain. Things are not always what they appear to be on the surface of life and God cares what we are going through. It will be different in heaven. God will make everything right one day. But, there is holiness in the sufferings we go through. The path to holiness, the suffering we go through because of our own crosses are the path to heaven if they are suffered willingly out of love for God and other people. We do not grow in love without suffering. Those who strive for an easy life free from suffering, in pursuit of their own selfish pleasures of the moment and without regard for others, refuse to grow in holiness and love, and they therefore shut themselves out of the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Love.