Today’s gospel contains a number of declarations by Our Lord which have come to be known as ‘The Beatitudes’. The word beatitude means happiness or even something stronger, perhaps like bliss. We hardly use the word beatitude today: it’s an unusual word that describes unusual statements.
After all, where is the happiness or the bliss in being poor, or sorrowful, or hungry or thirsty? Almost everything in our society is calculated to becoming rich and to eliminating every form of pain and sorrow. We are led to believe that happiness is to be found in money and everything money can buy. Even though we say that money can’t buy happiness a cynic may express it as ‘Having money is a pretty good way to be miserable’.
Our Lord established a whole new set of values. He insisted that happiness comes, not from relying on material wealth, but from relying on God. His key statement is ‘How happy are the poor in spirit’. The poor in spirit are those who depend completely on God and see him alone as the source of all good. Again the cynic would protest that this approach doesn’t work, but the truth is that it has worked for centuries. It has worked for the saints, who like Saint Paul truly believe that God ‘comforts us in all our afflictions’.
Our Lord in effect says to us today: ‘Make your choice; rely on material things which cannot last, or rely on God who never fails’.