The best way to happiness

Sunday readings in brief 4 A

Zephaniah 2:3,3:12-13; Psalms 145(146), 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Mathew 5:1-12

The best way to happiness

Dear friends, today is the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A. I would like to remind us once again that the Ordinary Time of the liturgical calendar is the moment of learning about the Kingdom of God. The end-term test of this season is conversion. St. Paul says, “Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17).

One of the most sought things by all people is happiness. The concept of happiness varies though from one person to the other and from one community to the other. For some happiness means having all material things possible. For others is having power and authority over others. For others still is simply getting something solid in the stomach.

One day some years ago, I took a couple who had visited me from abroad to a slam dwelling in one big city in East Africa. The couple hailed from one of the most developed countries in the world. As we entered the slams, we were greeted by a foul smell coming from the gutters full of the sewer. It was around 6 p.m. and the streets were congested with people coming from work. Some were buying foodstuff from the roadside kitchens most of them suspended above the sewer gutters. The children were playing around and shouting, “How are you”, or “why are you” (difficult to distinguish what they were saying) to the visitors. They looked dirty but extremely happy.

When we left the slams into the main highway towards the city center, there was silence in the car and I could hear some sobs from behind. I looked through the rear mirror and saw one of the visitors wiping tears from her cheeks. I was prudent enough not to ask immediately what the matter was but as soon as the mood returned to normal, I inquired. The answer I got hit me off-guard because I did not expect it. She exclaimed, “They are so poor but very happy”; “in my country, many people have every material thing they want but are not happy still”, she added.

It is evident to all that material things and power cannot buy true happiness. Today’s readings exalt different categories of values as the source of true happiness. From the first reading, we have humility, integrity, and truthfulness. St. Paul says that God chose the foolish by human reckoning to shame the wise by human standards. We gain nothing by boasting about worldly things. ‘If anyone wants to boast, let him or her boast about the Lord’. One day I overheard one technician boasting to his friends about how he managed to cheat the Parish Priest by charging him twice the normal amount to repair the sound system in Church!!! By the way, the technician was a member of that Church.

As he began his ministry, Jesus called his disciples and explained to them what happiness is and where they should be looking for it. In the first part of his summons on the mountain Jesus enumerates nine beatitudes or if you like blessedness or happiness. All of them are directly opposed to the values sought by many in the world then and even today. The poor in Spirit are thought to be cowards men. Gentleness is regarded as a weakness.  Mourning is tantamount to being cursed. Seeking what is right is out of fashion, we often seek what is convenient. Mercy left the world a long time ago. Peace is too expensive these days. Very few are willing to suffer for doing the right thing and finally very few are willing to be abused, insulted, or hated because of the name of Jesus.

However, though the world is getting more secular every day and the values of the kingdom seem not attractive; the human conscience cannot be annulled. We may suppress our conscience for a while but when the time for reckoning comes, every human being becomes solitarily vulnerable. Many mighty and powerful have fallen. Many who trampled others down are rotting in their graves. Many who were wealthy and famous cannot come out in open today and many died in solitude. Careful though we must be, being poor or hungry because of laziness is not a blessing and there can be nothing to be happy about it. Many backstreet preachers are misleading many to think that worshipping every day and night without doing anything to earn a living will earn their blessings. That is not anywhere in the beatitudes.

Dear friends, as we continue to learn about the values of the kingdom of God, I invite us today to reflect upon the things that we give priority in our lives. Are they aligned with the beatitudes?

Have a happy Sunday.

Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD (see also

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