4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

     For the past two weeks the readings have challenged us to go back to the basics of our faith. In going back to the basics we first saw that our identity is rooted in the truth that we are beloved sons and daughters of God and last Sunday, after recognizing who we are, the readings challenged us to see the mission that God has called us to in this life.  Once we understand who we are and what our mission is perhaps one of the most basic questions we can ask ourselves naturally arises when we hear today’s Gospel which challenges us to ask ourselves what is the ultimate goal of life.

     This deep question pulls us out of the present moment and forces us to ponder the future. Many of our lives are extremely busy and many of us often must be focused only on the present moment. But if we don’t stop for a moment every now and then and ponder the future, we will never know how to get where we want to go. After all, if we don’t know what we are looking for, we might get the wrong thing. Just think about it for a moment, if you are going to run a race don’t you think you better know where the finish line is and if you are going to build a bench don’t you think you better know what the bench looks like before you start to build it? If you really want to fulfill your mission in life, don’t you think it is important to know what the end goal is?

     If we take time to ponder the whole of our lives, I hope all of us would agree that the ultimate goal of our life is to spend eternity with in heaven. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know the way to heaven on my own. I need someone to show me the way. When I want to know how to do something I generally try to learn from someone who has already been successful at it. Since Jesus is the only person in human history who died and rose from the dead, it only makes sense that I, who also wants to go from death to life, would turn to Him who has already reached the goal, and imitate His example.  While there has been seemingly endless ink spilled over self-help books, some of which are more helpful than others, ultimately it is only Jesus who shows us the way to life, the way to true happiness.

     In the Gospel we just heard, Jesus sits with His friends and teaches us the real meaning of life and what should have the highest value in our lives if heaven is truly our ultimate goal. In teaching the beatitudes, Jesus extends an invitation to each of us to follow Him along the path of love that leads to eternal life. This blessedness of Jesus is not about power, or wealth. No according to Jesus, blessedness is the exact opposite of what our secular world teaches us, it is about an attitude of gentleness, compassion, and mercy.

     The call to live the beatitudes often demands that we leave our comfort zones and go the extra mile. Ultimately it demands that we truly live for others and not for ourselves.  All of us go searching for happiness in the many passing things of our world and end up falling short of the happiness we desire for ourselves. Yet it is precisely in living out these counter-cultural beatitudes that our lives are blessed now and in the life to come. These beatitudes bring happiness because teach us how to imitate Jesus and so become more like God while reflecting His goodness, beauty and truth in the world. While there are many challenges in life, if we open the door of our heart to Jesus and allow Him to share in the joys and sorrows of our life, we will experience the blessedness that only God can gives us.

     Jesus’ way of blessedness is not some path of misery that we must endure in this life to enjoy eternal life. No, we don’t have to wait until we die to begin experience some of the joys of eternal life, because we can be close to Christ while still here on earth. To be blessed means to be happy and if we want true happiness we need to open our hearts to the beatitudes, the way to happiness that Jesus has laid out for us.

     The beatitudes teach us how to become more like God, how to reflect the goodness and beauty and truth in the heart of God. They are the blueprint which shows us the path to our ultimate goal, the path from death to life. While in heaven we will be perfectly united with God, we can begin to experience something of that peace of heaven here on earth by living out the blueprints. So if we want to go back to the basics then perhaps it’s time for us to pick one of the beatitudes and make it a special focus in our lives for the next few months as we seek to find happiness in this life and in the life to come.

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