We may have been told that the Beatitudes are not a recipe for living now. They are for some other holy group of people or just directed towards those in Jesus' time. How can we live these hard truths now anyways? Do we even know what meekness looks like anymore?
But perhaps the Beatitudes are not an authorized-from-on-high prescription for how we are to live at all! Perhaps they are not a master plan to put 'into action' as much as descriptions, or observations, of how Jesus' Kingdom of God is continually breaking into the present. We just need to be on the look out for the evidence.
Practically this seems to make sense. Does it ever help to tell yourself, or others, to mourn correctly, to be humble, or to be poor in spirit? Not likely. Just like there is no quick, how-to recipe for being happy. (A equivalent translation for the "Blessed are..." phrase in the gospel accounts is "Happy are...".) When we knuckle down and 'plan' on being happy today, do we not just find alternate ways to be anxiously self-absorbed?
Maybe the question should not be 'How can I be happy?' but 'When am I happy?' or 'When do I see others joyful?' Well, when unresolved troubles at work or home mount up and we are almost 'forced' to become vulnerable, we realize that God, someone Other, is really our strength. It certainly can't be us! When we sense the gravity of this truth, do we not feel lighter, and, yes, happier and relieved? Calmness returns. Our idealistic expectations are not our rock, God is -- in all the mystery this implies.
When we see someone truly mourning a loved one, on the news or down the street, don't we sometimes say to ourselves, they are being comforted by the Spirit? We may not consciously think that in the moment, but what about in retrospect? In mourning that person is being deeply grateful for a life. The moment may be bittersweet, but a kind of joy is experienced.
The happiness in these scenarios are counter-intuitive, but be on the lookout and see if they are true. When we do see the beautitudes being acted out in life, we can give thanks that the Kingdom has drawn just a little nearer. In that upside-down way Jesus talked about. These upside-down experiences spring from a deeper well-spring. And this Source isn't dependant on whether we win the lottery, or whether our ego project du jour comes off without a hitch.
As Paul says in Romans, "We can be happy right now. Our trials produce endurance, and endurance produces a stubborn hope, a hope that will not disappoint us. It is the love of God poured forth in our heart." Oh, to lean into this mystery!
Over the past year, the Watershed community and others have been studying the topic of happiness, directly or indirectly. Join us in overhearing our reflections in this 2010 Happiness Edition:
* In Wolf: Lives of Jack London, Arthur Paul Patterson reflects on the wilderness was a deepening symbol ofJack London's life.
* In Joyful Happiness: A Spiritual Memoir, Arthur Paul Patterson reflects on how happiness for him corresponds ironically to times of personal suffering. Which beatitudes surface?
* In Something That the Heart Carries, Lorna Derksen is surprised by the wisdom her students reveal in narrating plot points in the history of happiness.
* Is our happiness connected to having justice done? Arthur Paul Patterson in Review of Faceless Killers, taking his cues from the Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell, writes about the wisdom of flawed people taking responsibility for problems they face, even if there are no easy answers. In Review of The Return of the Dancing Master, Arthur Paul Patterson explains how Mankell uses the novel form to explore the need for impartial justice.
* In Writing On The Wall, Lydia Penner reads between the lines of why there is so much grafitti in her neighbourhood.
* A Review of Introduction To The Psalms, Arthur Paul Patterson examines strands of meaning found in Nancy L. deClassié-Walford's book.
* Living 'in faith' enriches our lives and the lives of others. In Eyes: The Lamp of the Body, Arthur Paul Patterson tackles the question: can we always know whether we are on the discipleship path?
* Happiness involves experiencing community with others. Arthur Paul Patterson, in A Review of The Truth of These Strange Times, takes a look at how reading Adam Fould's novel can soften our heart towards people different from ourselves.
* Arthur Paul Patterson, in A Review of The Last Dickens, critiques Matthew Pearl's attempt at capturing the magic of Charles Dickens' literary genius. In A Review of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Patterson gives his preference to the ending of the tantalizing unfinished novel of Dickens.
* Sherryl Koop shares her Thoughts on Happy Go Lucky, an off-beat yet rewarding movie about a happy woman who has more depth than she first lets on.
* Bev Patterson reveals her thinking behind her energizing website edition painting in Tis The Season To Be Happy.
* In our audio section, Keep Your Ear to the Ground, Verda Heinrichs and others summarize the essence of various Watershed educational sessions.
* How do you Imagine Happiness? Verda Heinrichs arranges a beautiful album of photos and artwork with accompanying quotations to express possible answers. Soak them in!
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