“How do you know someone that is blessed?” Put in another way, “what are the indicators of blessedness?” Can we consider laughter and smiles as pointers to blessings? Should we consider wealth and material possessions as determinants of blessings? What about marriage and children, are they signals of blessings. If these and similar material effects are indicative of blessedness then the poor, the suffering, the unmarried (like my kind), the barren and others who are “deprived” in one way or the other cannot be considered in the market place of blessings.
When you take an attentive look into various social media platforms, you will discover that more than 80% of users claim “blessed” with interesting pictures and comments that go in that direction. People are now competing for attention, endorsements and “likes” on Facebook and other social networking sites while projecting images and sounds of happiness even when in reality they are going through fire and brimstone.
Who is the blessed; the loudest person in social or conventional media or the quiet, humble man or woman who may never have the opportunity of public notice? Who is the blessed; the person who says so or the man or woman whom God declares so? Who is the blessed; the one who has material success by human effort or the person whose strength lies in God even when he or she is materially poor?
Today, the Gospel Reading (Matt. 5:1-12a) tells us about one of the most excellent sermons on the mount traditionally known as the Beatitudes. One spectacular reality about the Beatitudes is the repetition of the phrase “blessed are they who….” Or put in another translation, “how happy are they who….”
The people who were in attendance on the Mount of the Beatitudes were paying rapt attention to hear about the type of individuals that count as those who are blessed. We can also imagine that many of them could have expressed amazement to learn that certain people whom they expected to be on the list were not there. They could have waited to hear about the wealthy and healthy, influential personalities of the time, excellent academics, successful merchants, political figures and even the leading religious celebrities of the time (Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees).
Instead of those listed above, our Lord Jesus Christ gives them a shocking profile by mentioning the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst, the merciful, the clean (pure) of heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted and insulted. Most of these were the ordinary but pious people of the time. We could recall that our Lord Jesus Christ remarked in the Gospel of Luke (18:25) that it would be easier for a Camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
By the end of the sermon, the testimony of St. Paul in Second Reading (1 Cor. 1:26-31) comes to light:
“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”.
Our initial question remains relevant; “who is the blessed?”. The word “blessed” in the Gospel of today comes from the Greek word “Makarios, ” and it means to be supremely happy, favored, well-off or fortunate. The same word was used by Elizabeth when the Blessed Virgin Mary visited her, and she says: “Blesses are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” (Luke 1:42).
Blessedness is a divine facility and not a human construction. If it comes from God, it is authentic and endures. Blessedness is a favor God gives to those who come to Him and depend on Him. The First Reading today tell us about the qualities of such people. The word of God says they are humble, lowly and obedient to God’s law. When you take an active look at the Beatitudes, you will discover that they recapitulate these three desirable elements.
Now, we can connect with the fact that real blessedness has nothing to do with material prosperity which is by divine estimation very dispensable. Our Lord Jesus Christ has nowhere to lay his head (Matt. 8:20), but that did not diminish his blessedness. True blessedness and happiness consist in our absolute dependence on God, the real source of all blessings and happiness. True blessedness is an eternal attribute. It can lead us to eternal joy. It often comes after pains, suffering, and persecutions. The apostle Peter says (1 Peter 3:14), “if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.” St. James (5:11) supports him by saying that blessed are those who have persevered in suffering like Job.
Looking at yourself through the lenses of the Readings this Sunday, would you say you are blessed? Remember that blessings do not leverage primarily on material favors but on a deep relationship with God to the extent that God becomes everything for you (Ephesians.4:6). You are blessed when God is your refuge and your strength (Psalm 46:1) and not any material element. You are blessed when God is your provider and provision (Gen.22:14). You are blessed when you believe that nothing is too hard for God (Jer.32:27). You are blessed when you accept that joy will come in the morning after the tribulations and tears of the night (Psalm 30:5). You are blessed when you put your trust and confidence in God (Jer. 17:7). You are blessed when your life is positively fruitful (Col.1:10).
The good news is that blessing a facility that is open to you even as you hear these words today; humble yourself, come to God, obey His words, and you are on the path of your blessings. Do not be afraid of sufferings, lacks, persecutions, and tribulations; they do not last forever; there must always be the remnants; the happy ones! You can be among them if you make a decision and arise to your blessedness today.
Have a blessed Sunday and more graces in the week ahead.