4th Sunday of Ordinary Time

HAPPY IS BLESSED
Rev. ARNOLD C. BIAGO, SVD

What we have heard proclaimed in our Gospel today is the famous 8 beatitudes which speaks about those who are blessed. In others versions of the Bible, the word used instead of blessed is happy. I believe there is an equally valid reason for such translation. Since someone who is blessed is one that is significantly happy.

Let me share with you an anecdote of a boy which was interestingly entitled “Secrets of Hapiness” told by a Rabbi: A young man once came to meet me in Jerusalem. He had an unusually happy disposition, so I asked him what’s his secret. He told me:

“When I was 11 years old, I received a gift of happiness from God.
“I was riding my bicycle when a strong gust of wind blew me onto the ground into the path of an oncoming truck. The truck ran over me and cut off my leg.

“As I lay there bleeding, I realized that I might have to live the rest of my life without a leg. How depressing! But then I realized that being depressed won’t get my leg back. So I decided right then and there not to waste my life despairing.

“When my parents arrived at the hospital they were shocked and grieving. So I told them: ‘I’ve already adapted. Now you also have to get used to this.’
“Ever since then, I see my friends getting upset over little things: their bus came late, they got a bad grade on a test, somebody insulted them. But I just enjoy life.

At age 11, this young man attained the clarity that it is a waste of energy to focus on what you are missing. And that the key to happiness is to take pleasure in what you have. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? So why are so many people unhappy?

After reading this anecdote, I noticed that the situation of the happy boy is as worse as what is described as blessed in our Gospel today. Yet in both ways, the boy is said to be happy and those in difficult situations in the beatitudes are noted to be blessed.

By our common and worldly standards, having lost a leg is certainly not something we will be very happy about. Yet the boy was happy. In the same way, being poor, persecuted, oppressed and in some other difficult situation is not a cause for rejoicing. What then constitutes happiness? How come we say that a desperate situation is blessed.

What was said in our anecdotes is very enlightening: “The key to happiness is to take pleasure in what you have.” In other words, happiness is not all about having this and having that or doing this or that. Rather happiness is being in such a positive disposition in a particular situation no matter what it is. In a very secular outlook, they say, it is a state of mind. Actually, this is not altogether secular for this being is being with God, this state of mind is a life centered or focused on God similar to what the beatitude calls blessed. They are blessed who inspite of the difficult situation remains and clings to God.

Like the situation of the boy, what the beatitudes describes is by no means a cause for rejoicing judging from our human standards. How in the world can we justify that someone tortured, harassed, in desperate need and self-sacrificing is blessed indeed? The world will certainly thinks that we are crazy. What makes their situation blessed is no the poverty itself, nor the pain and suffering inflicted on them by others but the sense of hope, their firm confidence in God in the midst of the troubles that surround them. These people described by the beatitudes might be lacking in material resources like money and power but they are rich of faith, hope and the love of God.

Being blessed is in many ways like happiness. To be blessed is not to have this and to have that but rather it is being… it is being with God, the best that is there for us. If God is at the center of our lives, we got is all, in Pilipino it sounds better: “Sa piling ng Dios wala ka ng hahanapin pa.” Indeed, by being with God we are truly blessed.

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