Blessed are the Holy for they are Happy!
It was said that the famous and powerful emperor, Alexander the Great, made these three requests before he died: first, that his physicians carry his coffin; second, that the path to the grave be strewn with gold, silver and precious stones that he acquired in his military conquests; and third, that his hands be exposed and dangling from the coffin. When asked why he had these unusual requests, he explained: his physicians will carry his coffin to show the world that no human doctor and medicines can stop death; life is God’s gift and no amount of gold and precious stones can buy it; and his hands must be seen dangling from the coffin to show that no matter how rich and powerful he has become, he carries nothing with him to the grave. He said: “Bury my body, do not build any monument, and keep my hands outside so that the world knows the person who won the world had nothing in his hands when dying.”
Towards the end of his life, Alexander the Great finally learned the lesson that nothing in this world is permanent; everything is passing away. To put our hopes in these limited realities will just leave us frustrated and unhappy. Even our own earthly life is passing. Everybody dies – kings, emperors and Popes. The prophet Jeremiah puts it rightly: “Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh; blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.” True happiness comes not from amassing worldly wealth and power, but from a heart that trusts God.
Everybody wants to be happy. But what many people do not realize is that happiness is closely related to holiness. God is the only source of true and lasting happiness. To be holy is to be close to God. The saints, the holy men and women in heaven are perfectly happy because they enjoy the so-called “beatific vision of God.” They behold the face of God; they see God face-to-face.
While we are still in this world, we can only have a foretaste or glimpse of that perfect happiness. But we have the assurance that we will eventually face God after our earthly life. This assurance gives us hope and joyful expectation. It also provides us with a different, and wiser, outlook in life. Thus we begin to see everything in a different light – poverty is not a misfortune, but freedom from material attachments; death is not an end but the beginning of eternal life; failures are opportunities for new beginnings; sufferings are meant to purify and strengthen us and to make us more fruitful.
This is precisely what the Beatitudes are all about – a new way of looking at things, aided by the light of faith. The things regarded as negative and unattractive are actually blessings. So Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor, the hungry, the sorrowing and the persecuted.” On the other hand, those that we consider good and desirable could be dangerous and harmful. So Jesus said: “Woe to you who are rich; woe to you who are filled now, who laugh now, and who are being praised.”
The world is in a very bad shape because many people ignore the lessons of the Beatitudes and persist in their sinful and selfish behavior. The culture of death is now upon us and we are reaping its deadly fruits – wars, abortion, euthanasia, crimes, divorce, drugs, and all kinds of immoral and perverse behavior. We cannot deny the truth that disobedience to God and all kinds of sinful conduct always make our life extremely unhappy and miserable. The world, consequently, is heading towards disastrous self-destruction.
Rev. Joe Wright was the pastor of the Christian Central Church in Wichita. He summed up this sad condition of the world in a prayer that he delivered during the opening session of the Kansas House of Representatives in Topeka on January 23, 1996. His prayer has upset some people, especially legislators, and he was criticized for allegedly using intolerant and politically incorrect language. But as Jesus said: “Blessed are you when people hate you and insult you on account of the Son of Man: your reward will be great in heaven.” Here is an excerpt of his prayer:
“Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, ‘Woe to those who call evil good,’ but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values.
We confess that: we have ridiculed the absolute truth of your Word and called it Pluralism;
we have worshipped other gods and called it Multiculturalism; we have endorsed perversion and called it Alternative Lifestyle; we have exploited the poor and called it the Lottery;
we have neglected the needy and called it Self-preservation; we have rewarded laziness and called it Welfare; we have killed our unborn and called it Choice; we have shot abortionists
and called it justifiable; we have neglected to discipline our children and called it Building Self Esteem; we have abused power and called it Political Savvy; we have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it Ambition; we have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it Freedom of Expression; we have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it Enlightenment. Search us, Oh, God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Amen.”
The Season of Lent begins on Wednesday. Once again, God calls us to repentance, conversion and holiness for He wants us to be truly happy. The only way to true and lasting happiness is by becoming holy – by faithfully following God’s commands and teachings and imitating the example of Jesus His Son. Indeed, we can rightly say, “Blessed are the holy, for they will always be happy!”
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Teresa Church
New York, NY 10002