The way to true happiness.
The way to beatitude
The first part of Jesus' programmatic 'sermon on the plain' speaks of four beatitudes and four woes, addressed to concrete persons in unenviable situations of poverty, hunger, affliction and persecution whom He calls 'blessed,' and also to actual people to whom He says 'woe' who are rich, satisfied, happy and popular. How come? We heard Jesus (three Sundays ago) introduce Himself as the one anointed in the Spirit of God and sent to bring the good news to the poor, the prisoners, the blind and the oppressed. Now that gospel is being delivered to them. It is the assurance illustrated by the case of the beggar Lazarus who was 'carried by angels to the bosom of Abraham' (Luke 16:19-31), or by the promise of Jesus to the one crucified with Him: 'Today you will be with me in Paradise' (Luke 23:35-43).
The eschatological perspective underlines the paradox of beatitude, the ultimate joy for those now in painful want. God is the basis of happiness. The believer says, 'The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom should I fear? The Lord is my life's refuge, of whom should I be afraid?' (Psalm 27:1). The world is there with its inequalities and injustices, the enemies of the faith are constantly ready with their persecutions and vilifications, humans are always prone to selfishness and insensibilities. All these, however, are but a brief prelude preparatory for the endless glory awaiting the faithful ones. 'I consider the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed to us.... In all these we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us' (Romans 8:18, 37). Trust in God is the basis of true blessedness even in sufferings, because happiness is a favor from God.
Warnings, not maledictions
Together with the four beatitudes, Luke enumerates four 'woes' that are not to be understood as maledictions or curses but as warnings. Jesus does not call as evildoers those who are rich or those who laugh now. He affirms only that their path is risky and can lead to perdition. They have no more consolation to wait for after this life, if their fill is only what this world offers; when these are gone, mourning and misery follow. Woe indeed to those who need nothing else placing their total confidence in perishable goods, and have not stored up 'treasure in heaven' by sharing with the poor and being rich in good works (Luke 12:13-40; 16:1-13, 19-34).
The provisional satisfaction in this life by itself can end up in lasting unhappiness. The myopia later to be regretted is the secularism that says this life in the world is all that matters, the ideology that claims that what the world judges as success or happiness is normative and lasting. To choose this path is to opt for a counterfeit life in contradiction to God's vision for human life embodied in the new humanity in Jesus as the Son of Man. As the one anointed to proclaim the word of God, Jesus' prophetic stand surely can be rejected, as did the people of Nazareth, but woe to those who choose some other foundation for the future.
Alalaong baga, blessed are those who believe in Jesus Christ crucified and who are glad to be 'crucified with Christ' (Galatians 2:19). The way of salvation and happiness for the followers of Jesus is unmistakable. 'If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?' (Luke 9:23-25).
Join me in meditating on the Word of God every Sunday, from 5 to 6 a.m. on DWIZ 882, or by audio streaming on www.dwiz882.com.