Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself. Rumi
A man called Rumi said: “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
That’s a good summary of today’s readings. The words of Christ challenge us to look differently at all the things happening to us and, also, the way we do things to others.
Many Communities in our world are not happy places and we are like the frog being slowly heated up in a pot of water. We feel it is getting warm, but we just keep making adjustments to the temperature instead of jumping out and declaring “we have a problem, people!”.
It’s from our Communities that we draw our share of happiness and peace of mind. But, even as more and more people begin to suffer mental illnesses, we struggle to change our behaviour, and content ourselves with pointing the finger at others: eg. the Government.
The Old Testament calls us to a greater humility to stop and listen, to re-evaluate which wisdom we rely on to guide our lives. Has the secular world-view eroded our Christian beliefs to the extent we find it difficult to accept struggle and sacrifice in our lives?
Without sacrifice and struggle, it’s difficult for a person to move to a higher level of contentment or to attain something precious in life. I was just listening to Neil Young singing “I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold”. Meaning, he’s looking for love, but to find that precious love requires hard work and taking risks (being vulnerable).
All of us need love, especially to be loved, but how many of us understand the importance of giving love to others until it hurts us. The transformation in us that, that “hurt” causes, brings the true rewards of more love and feeling good about ourselves: purpose and meaning in life.
However, most of our lives are oriented towards avoiding pain and sacrifice: we are often impatient, and thinking about what material thing will make me happy “today”.
Is that why the Beatitudes given to us today are so difficult for many Christians to accept?
One of the few things from English Class that I remember is the term: oxymoron. Probably because it had “moron” in the term (=idiot). It indicates how two words or phrases, that are in apparent contradiction to each other, can form a new meaning: eg. parting is such “sweet sorrow”; “awfully good”; “bittersweet”; “same difference”; and “original copy”.
At first bite, the Beatitudes don’t make sense: “happy are the sorrowful”. However, let’s look at some real world examples of contradictions that cause us to change for the better: or see more clearly the best path to take.
The world, and each one of us, have just endured the frustration, sadness and fear of the COVID-19 pandemic. All those negative experiences have woken the world up to a clearer reality that we need to work together: respect; honesty; cooperation.
But, how many people would have said the pandemic would be good for us?
When parents are raising a child: the most effective way my mother had to change our behaviour, if we were refusing to help, or speaking rudely, was to look sad, shed a tear or say: “it’s OK, I’ll do the washing up as well.” My father took a different approach; ha, ha.
In the same way, the Beatitudes can transform us: Happy are the sorrowful… why? Not because of the sorrow, but because we have a God who loves us, who helps find joyful again.
When we bury our friend, or family member we, with faith, find happiness, not because the person has died, but because we believe God is there to receive them and show them mercy.
“Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right: they shall be satisfied.” Hunger and thirst symbolise the virtues of sacrifice, struggle, perseverance and hard work. They are happy, not because they enjoy suffering, but because they believe (with God’s help), they will have a better quality of life in the future: for themselves and their community.
This is a challenge in the, so called, developed, western, world: where the youth are given so much, with little expectation to contribute to the well-being of the family, School or Community from which they receive. Could this cause their mental illness?
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” The Beatitudes offer a way forward to help make the changes necessary, for ourselves, to build a more united and happier Community. They are not contradictory, but emphasise how a firm belief in God’s presence in our lives, is able to overcome all negative experiences.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI