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Friday, January 28, 2011

Beautitudes are a Map to Happiness

by John Paul Shea, Tucson Seminarian
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Superstition Mountains
In Arizona, not far from where I am from, there is a mountain range called the Superstition Mountains. According to history, there is a fantastic gold mine that was discovered there. The mine is said to have been first discovered by the Apache Indians in the 1500s.

People have been searching for the mine ever since, but no one has found it. Over the years the mine has been given the name the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. Everyone who is said to have discovered the gold have either been found dead or have vanished. Just last year Arizona officials called off a search for three hikers who were on a quest for the legendary lost gold mine. The men disappeared into the sweltering wilderness with little camping gear or water. According to news reports, “They had one thing on their mind, and that was finding [the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine], and they didn't take into consideration the other factors."

In today’s Gospel we also hear about a mountain. Like the Superstition Mountains, this mountain also has a hidden trail that leads to gold. However, unlike the Superstition Mountains, this gold can be found. The map that leads to the gold comes from the mouth of Jesus Christ and is written in the scriptures. This map is the Beatitudes.

The map of the Beatitudes is a map to happiness. Everybody wants to be happy. We want what makes us feel good. We desire pleasure. We want prosperity. Although these things are not bad in themselves, they do not bring us the kind of happiness that Jesus gives us. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus brings the notion of happiness to a whole new level. Jesus is telling us that happiness does not come from what we have. Rather, happiness is given through the way we live.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus shows us a way of living that is radically different than what had ever been heard before. Jesus is asking us to change. He is not just asking us to make a few changes in our behaviors, but is asking us to change every aspect of our lives. These changes do not promise laughter, fortune, or even safety. What they do promise, however, is divine union. We all know that making changes in life is not easy. None of us can do it on our own. That is why Jesus gives us a series of steps. The Beatitudes is kind of like a twelve step program. However, instead of twelve steps, there are only eight.

In the first step, Jesus tells us to become poor in spirit. This first step is very important because it breaks the sin of pride. By taking this first step, we will empty ourselves of our self so that God can fill us with His self. When we become filled with God, we will then have the grace to take the following steps. By the time we reach the last step, we will see firsthand that no Christian will reach the top of God’s mountain without major difficulties. Yet, if we persevere, even to the point of death, we will find true happiness because we will have overcome the world.

If we look into the lives of the saints, we can see that many of these holy individuals have followed the steps of the Beatitudes in their own creative ways. For example, Saint Teresa of Avila climbed through nine mansions, taking each step of prayer and self-denial until she reached divine union. Saint Therese followed the steps in her “little way.” Saint John of the Cross, who climbed the mountain in darkness said, “The beatitudes are a marvelous chain of mountains of which each peak is a steppingstone in the sublime ascent that leads to God. Each one of the beatitudes is something perfect and excellent – a summit in itself; and at the same time it is a beginning of future happiness even in this life.”

My brothers, climbing the Beatitudes is not easy. But, Christ has assured us that he will give us blessings all the way. Let us continue to persevere on this Christian journey. Let us not fall backwards into the false gold of the world, but let us climb up the Mountain until we reach the true gold, the gold of divine union. On that day we will reach true happiness. We will hear the words, rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.

1 comment:

  1. Your homilies are going to be great, John Paul. I really enjoyed this writing. Thank you!