Monday, January 31, 2011

Happy vs. Miserable

Last night, the Vocation Office and Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry co-sponsored Cast Your Nets! in Cincinnati. Archbishop Schnurr was invited to preside and preach to the gathered teens, roughly 350 in all. After the Mass, there were several requests for a copy of his homily text. He has graciously allowed the Vocation Office to host it over on the main site:

The gospel we have just heard are the opening lines of the Sermon on the Mount which, in the Gospel of Matthew, is the first major instruction of Jesus in His public ministry. These opening lines are customarily referred to as the Beatitudes. Each of the Beatitudes begins with the word “Blessed,” as in “Blessed are the poor in spirit” or “Blessed are the meek.”

Because Jesus spoke in the Aramaic language, sometimes it is difficult to find a word in the English language that conveys all the meaning of the words that He used. Thus, some translations of the Bible use the word “happy” instead of the word “blessed,” as in “Happy are those who mourn.” This, however, seems to set up a contradiction. By definition, isn’t a person who is mourning unhappy?

To understand better the Beatitudes, we need to go back to the culture of Jesus’ time. In the original language and cultural mindset of Jesus’ time, to make a strong statement automatically implied that the hearer should consider its opposite. Only then would the full meaning begin to emerge.

Thus, “Happy are the poor in spirit,” becomes “Miserable are those attached to earthly possessions.” And isn’t it true that an inordinate attachment to material things brings all kinds of misery, such as jealousy, workaholism, and even fear of loss? Rather than being dependant on material things, the poor in spirit have reverence for God and child-like trust in Him.


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