An Old man sat on a bench in a park. A little boy ran up to him and asked him: “Why do ou always look so cheerful and happy?”
“I made a promise to God when I was a child like you and I’ve kept it.”
“What promise was that?”
“I promised God that I would never complain.”
“How long ago did you promise that?”
“98 years ago.”
“98! Then you don’t have long to go!”
“Oh, yes I do. I’ve promised God that I won’t complain for the next 100 years!”
We all long for that lovely feeling of peace and happiness. The closest to it I can think of is the feeling we get when we are about to go on a long holiday to an exciting place with our best friend. We feel happy, excited, in love with everyone and with the whole world. We feel like we are riding on the wind with the sun on our back and a very blue sea at our feet, and we can’t even remember how to spell ‘complain’. The problem is that we don’t know how to hold on to that feeling. It soon bursts like a balloon in the sun. This is because that feeling is built on is something temporary – our holiday.
Jesus teaches us how to build up that feeling so that it can survive even if we have to do a lot of things we don’t want to do or have things happen to us that we don’t like. Because Jesus loves us so much and he wants us to be happy deep inside, not just on the top like the ‘holiday happiness’, he sat down on the side of a mountain and taught people like us how to get ‘supreme happiness’. The word ‘Beatitude’ means just that – ‘supreme happiness’ of the lasting kind. Jesus’ lesson is kept for us in the Bible (Mt 5-7).
Jesus said that to be happy there are 8 attitudes that we must practice so that they become part of who we are. Jesus said, happy are the poor in spirit; happy are those who mourn; happy are the meek; happy are those who hunger for what is right; happy are the merciful; happy are the pure in heart; happy are the peacemakers and happy are the persecuted.
Now if you are like me, you will say that that is about as clear as thick soup. Especially the bits on being hungry and persecuted! Who wants that? And how can that make you happy? But of course we know that Jesus never lies and he would never say that those people were going to be happy if they weren’t. So the only answer is once again (remember the Commandments?) that there must be more to the words of Jesus than what seems to be the case at first glance. Luckily for us, Jesus followed these words with many examples of what people must do so that we could understand exactly what he meant. Let us have a look.
“Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. What Jesus was saying was that the people who are humble and know that everything they have comes from God turn to God for everything they need. Also, because they know that everything is given to them by God, they are happy to share what they have. To be poor in spirit you have to really trust God (not just when you are in trouble) and share yourself and what you have with others. In the lessons that follow the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us to try not to want too many things on earth, but to do good because God will store treasure for us in heaven for each of our good deeds on earth.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”. When you mourn, it means that you feel sorry for something or someone you have lost. Jesus is saying here that we have to feel sorry for the loss of good in the world. God made it good, but we messed things up a bit with thinking of ourselves first. What Jesus wants us to do is to decide against sinning and help others to do the same. Jesus talks about many sins in the lessons that follow. He talks about people who are more interested in money than in loving God and others. He talks about people caring too much about what they want instead of what is good for their families. He also talks about people who want to do bad things to others who hurt them. Jesus says that we must try not to behave like this. He tells us that if we put God and others first, God will reward us in heaven.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”. Being meek doesn’t mean being a mouse, even if meek does sound a bit like squeak! Being meek means that we treat others with kindness, help them and share what we have. In His teachings Jesus teaches us that we must treat others the way we want to be treated. So when we are about to put “me” first, we must stop right there, think of how we want to be treated and then wish that for others. Jesus says that if you do that, God will put you first in heaven. Jesus says that we must also help others who need our help. If we can help in any way, then that is a job that we must do.
“Blessed are those who hunger for what is right”. You know pretty well what it feels like to be hungry. You want to get some food to take away that empty feeling as quickly as possible. What Jesus is saying here is that in the same way that you want to do something quickly to take away that hungry feeling, you must really want to fix what is wrong around you so that what is right can quickly take its place. If you see someone who is doing something wrong, you must tell them not to. If you see something that is unfair, you should try to find a way to make it fair. Jesus said that we know what is right and wrong from the Ten Commandments and He tells us that it is really important that we know them well and understand them.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” This one is easy to understand. Jesus teaches us that if we forgive others quickly, God will also forgive us when we offend Him. Jesus taught us the Lord’s Prayer. In that prayer we say “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”. So we must make sure that we do forgive others, otherwise God will say: “I can’t forgive you because you have not forgiven!” make sure you forgive quickly and do not still have that angry feeling inside.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”. Your heart is pure if you always have God in it. If you pray and always try to do what God would want you to do, God will stay in your heart and teach you to see things the way He does. People who are pure in heart keep their minds clean and their heart away from sin. They take care of themselves as the temple of God so that God can live in their souls. God doesn’t want to live together with sin in His children. Jesus goes on to teach that we are the light of the world so we must radiate God’s goodness. He also teaches that we are like salt. Salt makes food taste good and stops it from going bad. If we are like salt, we help the world to stay good and stop others from trying to make it bad. Jesus also tells us that we must stay close to God by often praying quietly.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”. Jesus teaches us that fighting is against the will of God. God loves peace because His children can only grow to be what He wants them to be if there is peace. We often think about peace on a grand scale – like the opposite of war. But peace also exists in a smaller but just as important scale. It exists in our hearts and around us in our families and friends. Jesus teaches us that we must always work for peace and justice. When we are children we must try to always keep peace around us and in us by doing what is right and fair. When we are older we must also keep peace around us but we must make sure that we work for peace and for a world that is fair.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. When Jesus was speaking there were many, including Himself, who were in danger because powerful people did not want to listen to Jesus. They were mean to Jesus’ followers and in the early Church the Christians were killed. It took a lot of courage to be a Christian then. Today, there are still places in the world where people cannot speak openly of their love for Jesus. We have to pray for people who suffer because they love Jesus. But even in our own lives people can be mean to us because we love Jesus and want to do what is right. When friends invite you to the beach and you say that you have to go to Church, they can tease you and call you a ‘goody, goody’. Then you must have the courage to say that you want to go to Church and will see them later. Jesus will be very happy and He will reward you in ways that you can’t even imagine.
With these lessons Jesus taught us how to build a lasting happiness like a house built on solid rock. I hope you enjoyed His teachings.