Like many of you, I’m a parent and a grandparent. Most of my friends are parents and grandparents too, and one of the things I often hear them say is, “All I want is for my children to be happy.” Of course, if you ask twenty parents to tell you what “happiness” looks like, you’ll probably get thirty different answers! But when it’s all said and done, we don’t just want our kids to be free from suffering; we want them to be happy.
Did you know that Jesus taught us the definition of happiness? It’s right there in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12). That’s because the Greek word for “blessed”—as in “Blessed are the poor in spirit”—can also be translated as “happy.” It’s as if Jesus is telling us, “If you really want to be happy, here’s how you should live.” This month, we want to focus on three Beatitudes: blessed are the poor in spirit, the merciful, and the peacemakers. We chose these because of the way they teach us how to approach God (poor in spirit) and how to care for others with our words and actions (merciful peacemakers).
Happy are the Poor in Spirit. When the prophet Isaiah encountered the holiness of God, he cried out, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). When she was visited by her cousin Mary, Elizabeth asked, “How does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43). Blind Bartimaeus, the apostles Peter and Paul, and so many others made similar statements (Mark 10:47; Luke 5:8; 1 Timothy 1:15).
All of these people understood how little they had to offer God when they experienced his presence. All of them approached God empty-handed and with a sense of neediness as they asked the Lord to fill and sustain them. Every day, I pray that Jesus will help me to be poor in spirit like these great saints!
Happy Are the Merciful and the Peacemakers. But being blessed doesn’t only involve our interior disposition. True happiness can only be found as we treat our family members, and in fact everyone around us, with the same mercy and forgiveness that God has so freely given us. On the day I meet Jesus face-to-face, I really want to “be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7). Therefore, today I want to offer mercy and forgiveness, even to those who don’t ask for forgiveness. I want to be as merciful as our Father in heaven has been to me (Luke 6:36).
I also want to know the happiness that comes with being a peacemaker in every situation. I want my words to bring peace and encouragement to my family, to my fellow parishioners, and to my coworkers. I want to put away negative words that tear people down and instead speak to them with the same love that Jesus has for them.
This month, let’s ask the Lord to teach us the way to true happiness and true blessing. Let’s come to Jesus empty-handed. Let’s be slow to judge and quick to forgive. And let’s become ambassadors of his peace and mercy to everyone we meet.