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Monday, June 1, 2015

Oh those Beatitudes

The Catholic Church teaches that the Beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus' preaching and yet there have rarely been a set of statements that have caused more confusion than those reported in the Gospels.  Everyone from Emmett Fox to St Chromatius of Aquileia have tried to make these Teachings of Christ understandable to the average person.

Yet the more I read what others have written, and the more I delve into what The Church teaches, I realize that the foundation necessary to understand The Beatitudes can be understood in the individual answering this question:

Do you want to be Right or do you want to be Happy?

Now look, if you are like me you probably consider this a trick question.  Of course I want to be happy; however, I also want to be right and damn it sometimes I AM right but no one will acknowledge that and when that happens I am not happy!

Every once in a while I just want someone to look me in the eye and say, "Yes, Leslie.  You are completely right about this situation" and not continue that sentence with "but, does that really matter in the grand scheme of things?".

I'm not sure why I want this to happen.  After all, nothing would change.  The people who dislike me will still dislike me and the people who disagree with me will still disagree.  Maybe all I want is a little bit of recognition that I am on the right path, that my thinking is straight and true and that I am walking towards heaven.

And if that is the reason well then heck, I get little God Shots (as we call them) all the time.  A text from a man on the journey towards full communion with The Church thanking me for my direction and teaching.  A hug from a newly baptized woman who tells me she would not have been able to go forward if it wasn't for the way I encouraged her.  A girlfriend in pain who calls and asks me to pray with her, only to receive a rose out of the blue that same afternoon and acknowledges that our asking St Therese to help her out actually happened.

Jesus, through His Church, teaches that "The Beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness." (CCC 1718).  Our desire for happiness itself is divine in origin, it is placed in our hearts by God at the moment of our conception.  We yearn for Him, for divine communion, and we spend most of our time on earth scrambling madly to find that communion in all kinds of places.  We look for it in sexual relationships, in work, in artistic expression - all of which can be beautiful expressions of the Love for the Divine.  However, because of concupiscence, we also screw up our searching in much the same manner - thinking sexual pleasure is more important that sexual union, that personal expression is more important that caring for the group or that economic security is more important than meeting the needs of all in a just and proper manner.   We can look for divine communion through the use of drugs and alcohol and other people.  We can twist the natural desire for happiness into something unnatural, making the mistake that getting what WE FEEL is right is the same as being HAPPY.

Pope Francis, when addressing the young people at World Youth Day in 2014, reminded us that Jesus 'asks us to follow him and to travel with him along the path of love, the path that alone leads to eternal life'.  The Holy Father stated that this request came when Jesus proclaimed The Beatitudes.  He also went on to remind us that no where in that proclamation did Jesus assure us that it was going to be a skip through daffodils.  Pope Francis said, "We face so many challenges in life.....but if we open the door to Jesus and allow him to be part of our lives...then we will experience the peace and joy that only God...can give."

Perhaps my wish that someone, anyone, tell me I am right sometimes is just a misdirected desire for happiness.  Perhaps it is the sin of pride rearing its ugly head.  Perhaps, when it happens, I should look to the ladder to heaven provided me by the heart of the Teachings, the foundation of Truth. Perhaps The Beatitudes will help me want only to be Happy - and stop worrying about whether or not I am right.

And maybe, if I can let go of that need, I can actually find the Happiness I seek.

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