ZEPH 2:3, 3:12-13 I COR 1:26-31 MT 5:1-12
A wise old cat notices a kitten chasing its tail. “Why are you chasing your tail?” said the wise old cat. The kitten replied, “I have learned that the best thing for a cat is happiness, and happiness is my tail. Therefore I am chasing it, and when I catch it, I shall have happiness.” The wise old cat responded, “My son, I, too, have paid attention to the problems of the universe. I, too, have judged that happiness is my tail. But I noticed that whenever I chase after it, it keeps running away from me, and when I go about my business, it just seems to come after me wherever I go.” We do not find happiness in material things, in a pill, in a bottle, or by having love affairs. Happiness is something that comes from within us. The only truly happy life is a God-centered life.
Today’s readings define our Christian goal of eternal happiness and explain the attitudes and actions necessary to reach it. Zephaniah, in the first reading, calls a “moral minority” of the Jews of his time blessed because they seek justice, humility, truth and righteousness, thus making a declaration of dependence on God. In the second reading, Paul advises his Corinthian Christians to use their gifts and heaven-sent beatitudes for the good of the community, because God has chosen to give them life in Jesus, by whom He justified, sanctified and redeemed them.
In today’s gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples in the paradoxical blessedness of poverty, hunger, sorrow and persecution. In poverty, we recognize God’s reign; in hunger, His providence; in sorrow, true happiness; and in persecution, true joy. In other words, the blessed on Jesus’ list are poor in spirit, compassionate, meek, merciful, clean of heart and peacemakers and those who are willing even to be insulted and persecuted for their ideals and values. Each of the inspired authors of today’s readings, Zephaniah, Paul and Matthew, “makes a motion,” that each of us should consider making a Declaration of Dependence on God, thus beginning to lead holier and happier lives.
The beatitudes contain the most essential aspects of Christian behavior that we need to live in order to reach Christian perfection. They form the outline for Christ-like living. They give the personal qualities expected of a disciple of Jesus, or the way of life to be lived by his disciple. They show us the values that Christ cares about.
We need to respond to the challenge of the beatitudes in daily life. The Beatitudes propose to us a way of life, inviting us to identify with the poor, those who mourn, the meek, and those who hunger and thirst after justice. They challenge us to be compassionate people, to be men and women who are pure in heart, and to become peacemakers in our dealings with one another, in our families and in the society at large, even when this approach to things exposes us to ridicule and persecution. Let us remember that each time we reach out to help the needy, the sick and the oppressed, we share with them a foretaste of the promises of the beatitudes here and now.
We need to choose the way wisely. “There are two Ways, one of Life and one of Death, and there is a great difference between the two Ways.” The way of life is the way of Jesus that leads to eternal life. The challenge of the beatitudes is: “Are you going to be happy in the world’s way or in Christ’s way?” God wants us to live as brothers and sisters who care for one another.