There was a beggar who came every week to ask a very wealthy man for money. And every week the rich man gave him a generous gift.
But one day the rich man took the beggar aside and said to him, “Listen, you know I’m going to continue to give you some money every week. You don’t have to convince me anymore. A little less complaining and a little less whining about your condition in life and we’ll both be a lot happier.”
The beggar pulled himself up and stood tall, feeling his pride had been attacked. “My good man,” replied the beggar, “I don’t try to tell you how to be a millionaire, please don’t try and teach me how to be a beggar!”
You and I are a lot like that beggar and that millionaire, aren’t we? We don’t like when someone comes along and tries to turn our world upside down. Our reading from Corinthians today (1Cor 1:26-31) brings this out: “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.”
That was and is Jesus’ mission – to turn the world upside down. Today in the Gospel (Matt 5: 1-12) we hear the familiar Sermon on the Mount. Again and again Jesus says “Blessed are the poor in spirit, Blessed are those who mourn, Blessed are the meek, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, Blessed are the merciful, Blessed are the clean of heart, Blessed are the peacemakers, Blessed are the persecuted, and Blessed are you when they insult you.”
Jesus uses the word Blessed nine times as he turns the values of the world upside down. You won’t hear this message in two weeks during the $7 million, 30-second Super Bowl commercials. Jesus doesn’t use the word Happy, does he? The message of the multi-million dollar Super Bowl commercials will be – drink this beer or soda and you will be Happy. Wear these sneakers or drive this car and you’ll be Happy.
What Jesus wants us to possess is far beyond being Happy. He wants us to have Godlike Joy, that is the definition of Blessed. Happiness usually depends on the quality and quantity of material things. Happiness comes from the outside. The Blessed Joy Jesus gives us comes from the inside. Blessed Joy can thrive even when we have little or nothing.
Happiness depends on good health, a good job, a nice family and material possessions. All you need to have Joy or Blessedness is the presence of God. Joy can break out in the middle of a war, in a depressed economy, in an intensive care waiting room or in the slums.
Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, they will be called the children of God.” Jesus is really turning your world and mine upside down when he says that. I bet 90% of us are peace-keepers. I know I am. “Don’t confront a family member. Keep the peace at all costs. Don’t rock the boat. Grin and bear it”. No wonder we walk on egg shells so often.
The following prayer was found on the body of an unknown Confederate soldier during the Civil War. This soldier obviously understood the words of Jesus and the difference between being Happy and being Blessed:
“I asked God for strength, that I might achieve, I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things. I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy. I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of others, I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life, I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for — but everything that I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I among all people, am most richly blessed.”
Spend some time praying and reflecting on the Beatitudes and on the Prayer of the Confederate Soldier.
EVERY MORNING I SPEND 10 MINUTES FILLING MY MIND FULL OF GOD. SO THERE’S NO ROOM LEFT FOR WORRY THOUGHTS!