St. Paul in his letter to the Christian community in Galatia proclaims that Jesus has freed us from our worse selves (the vices of our dark side) so that we are free to live our better selves (a life of virtue).
A theme in Paul's letter particularly intrigued me. Jesus has freed us our worse selves so that we can pursue, with God’s grace, our authentic self-hood. And that's what joy and happiness is all about.
Many think that if they get enough money, fame, power, they'll be happy. But if so, how explain Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Prince, and other celebrities who “had it all” but sedated themselves.
Happiness has to factor in the inevitables of life: work with its stresses; relationships with their tensions; disappointments with dreams; health or the lack thereof; and ultimately death.
Bishop Robert Barron, of “Word on Fire” fame, likes to note Michael Jordan became his happiest not by playing any way he wanted, but by mastering the basics of basketball.
So too with us. Mastering the basics of discipleship. That's how we become our authentic selves.
St. Augustine reminds us that by our very nature, no human relationship will satisfy us completely. Because we were created to live in relationship with God forever. Thus Augustine wrote: “O Lord, you have made us for yourself, and therefore our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
|Tissot's Sermon of the Beatitudes|
At one point many people left Jesus. Jesus then turned to his inner circle and asked, “Do you also want to leave?” Peter replied, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Yes, the basics: the beatitudes. In the opening verses of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes the kind of character we should have. The first four steps focus on our relationship with God. The next four steps, our relationships with one another.
Disciples recognize God can fill their emptiness. That's what “poor in spirit” means.
Disciples are fragile creatures whom an awesome Creator gifted with life.
Disciples realize their fortune to be alive, and are grateful; they owe this awesome God “praise and glory and honor.”
Disciples beg for healing, salvation. They are meek and gentle, considerate and unassuming, hungry for a right relationship with God.
The next four beatitudes or attitudes or steps have to do with our relationships with one another.
Fortunate are they who forgive wrongs and let go of anger and resentment. God will be merciful to them because they realize they need God's mercy.
Fortunate are they who are pure in heart, who have integrity, sincerity; they will see God face to face.
Fortunate are they who don't stir up conflict but try to be peacemakers, at peace with themselves, with others and with God.
And lastly, fortunate are they who are ready to suffer rather than betray their conscience, who try to do the right thing in all decisions.
I pray that these beatitudes will inspire us to become, with God’s grace, our authentic selves.