Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Happiness is something built into us by our Creator, it’s a gift He has bestowed on every creature, it’s an inner light which He appointed for us to be able to see our way, even when things get very, very dark. That sin which clings so closely that we fall to thinking is part of us, that we sometimes blame God for, makes us unhappy, at odds with everything.
Some people even canonize the state of being unhappy so that they can feel pious about it. It becomes a proof of their fidelity to God and to His Word. Sin in them confuses ‘blessed are they that mourn’ with a personal cult of unhappiness that they seek to impose on others around them. We all have experienced this. We call it ‘guilt tripping.’
In His sermon on the mount, our Lord begins by revealing to us the true human nature with which we were created. We call these sayings ‘beatitudes’ and sometimes confuse them with a regimen of ideal behavior which we feel the Lord is asking of us. The contrary is true. He is telling us of the gifts He bestowed on us when He created us happy.
Yes, happy—μακαριος, makários, ‘happy’—the blessed state in which we were created. He begins, ‘How happy are the poor in spirit: theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.’ Can anyone make themselves, by trial and error, ‘poor in spirit’? Is the Lord asking this of us? Or is He telling us, ‘Return to Me, and I will return to you. Be what I made you. Be happy’?
The same is true of the other beatitudes, even the next one which seems impossible to us, ‘How happy are those who mourn: they shall be comforted.’ If He created us to be happy, how can He be telling us that when we are happy, we will mourn? What will we mourn for, and how are we to mourn? Ironically, this saying’s solution is, the question is the answer.
We are being called, we are being tugged at, by the Lord to be happy, to return to the state of being in which we were created. At that moment when at His loving command each of us emerges from nothing, He is with us, He is the first person we see as our eyes open, His being becomes our being, we receive our sight and see the world through His eyes, we are happy.
‘How happy are the meek: they shall inherit the earth.’ And why not? The whole earth and all the wonders that it contains are given to us, who are His earthly image. We hear these words, again, as a conditional statement and, indeed, in a sense they are. We will inherit the earth means we have inherited it only when we return to our nature, meekness.
Read the rest of these sayings of Jesus, and hear them not as conditions to be met that are foreign to us, but as the conditions intrinsic to human nature, to which Christ is calling us to return. The difference is subtle between us making ourselves good against our nature, and yielding to the good that is our nature. The first is a work of man, the second a work of God.
How happy are those who hunger and thirst for what is right: they shall be satisfied.
How happy are the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them.
How happy are the pure in heart: they shall see God.
How happy are the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God.
How happy are those persecuted in the cause of right: theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.
How happy are you when people abuse you, and persecute you, and speak all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
Rejoice and be glad, for great shall be your reward in the heavens: this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.
‘Rejoice and be glad’ is a word not spoken by our Lord as spiritual decorum, but in spirit and truth. He really expects this of us, and He knows that we know there’s no way to ‘rejoice and be glad,’ except by being what He made us. The apostle Paul chimes in his assent, ‘I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord. I repeat, what I want is your happiness.’
Can it really be impossible for us to be happy? We make it seem so hard. We always find fault with the world, our neighbors, and ourselves. Can it be that we are just not looking where we’ve been told to look? And if we only looked there, looked within where Christ says ‘the kingdom of the heavens’ is, even where He is, might we then be happy?
I am happy, and I want to be, but it’s not something I have to talk myself into. I already believe it’s all true: Christ risen from the dead has remade the universe, reversed the curse of death, and is here in this room with me at this very moment. Yes, and with you too who have stumbled upon me in my cave. Let’s forget ourselves, then, and remember Him. Let’s be happy.
Yes, all it takes is a ‘be’ attitude.
at 10:14 PM