Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven” (Matthew 5:12)
It is said that when new employees begin work at Cadbury’s in Bourneville, they are allowed to eat as much chocolate as they like. The point is, of course, that once they have done that for a few days, the will never want to do it again.
True or not, this practice makes an important point - the things we enjoy, the things we really like doing, the things that we think will make us feel really happy work, but for a short a time only. Sooner or later we get fed up with them (literally).
Simple pleasures, which might seem fine in moderation, when consumed to excess, and can cause many problems. They no longer satisfy, and even become destructive. As we grow we discover that pleasure is not the same as happiness.
This understanding helps us make sense of Jesus’ teaching in today’s Gospel. When we here these words, we are likely to feel troubled and confused.
Happy are those who mourn?
Happy are those who are persecuted?
Happy are those who hunger and thirst? - Even if, in the cause of right, this hardly sounds pleasurable, enjoyable, does it?
But of course, happiness and pleasure are not the same, though we might often confuse them.
St Augustine explains it like this:
All human beings want to be happy. And the search for happiness is a kind of restlessness, it is a search for fulfilment. We think we can find it in things, pleasures, but while they might give temporary happiness, they cannot be fulfilling, because they do not last.
St Augustine explains that our yearning for happiness is in fact a yearning for that which does last for ever. And when our basic needs are filled by love, by hope, by faith, by God, which last for ever, then we are no longer restless. Finding God, living with God, is true happiness.
And here, in the today’s Gospel, the Beatitudes, Jesus teaches us that this happiness is not a vague hope of life in heaven, but a really possibility now. He tells us:
Happiness is not found in wealth, or in things : happy are the poor in spirit.
Happiness is not found in pride, or power: happy are the gentle, the meek
Happiness is not found only when things go well for us: happy are those who mourn
Happiness comes through healing broken hearts and the wounds of division: Happy are the peacemakers
Happiness comes through overcoming injustice and evil: Happy are those who hunger and thirst for what is right
Happiness comes through compassion, mercy and love: Happy are the merciful
These are practical, principles of action for this life, which we have already seen most clearly in the life of Jesus himself:
As Pope Francis tells us:
“The Beatitudes are the path that God indicates as an answer to the desire of happiness inherent in man …
The Beatitudes are Jesus' portrait, his way of life, and they are the way of true happiness, which we also can live with the grace that Jesus gives us.”