Fr Billy Swan
Dear friends. If there is one thing that unites us all is that we all want to be happy. In the American Constitution, a fundamental human right is described as ‘the pursuit of happiness’. But although we all want to be happy, we pursue that happiness in different ways and in different places. Sadly, some of those ways and some of these places will never deliver the happiness we seek. Today in the Gospel of the Beatitudes, Jesus offers us again, a blueprint for true happiness and joy. It is a blueprint that is radically different from what we expect will provide the happiness we seek.
The gateway to this happiness for all is through the door of humility. The Gospel teaches a paradox that ‘God chose what we consider foolish to shame what is strong’ and that ‘whoever exalts himself will be humbled but whoever humbles himself will be exalted’ (Luke 18:14). It’s not that Jesus taught this Gospel logic from a distance. He became what he taught for in the words of Paul: ‘He humbled himself in accepting death, even death on a cross. But God raised him high and gave him the name above all names’ (Phil. 2:8).
So how then can we be humble? Being humble does not mean thinking less of ourselves or having a low self-esteem. Rather, humility is always linked to truth. Humility looks into our lives and looks at the world with sheer honesty. It sees both the potential for so much good and also the potential for harm. In this sense, humility leads us to our true selves and keeps us close to reality. Pride on the other hand can lead us to misjudge our own potential for both good and harm. Pride separates us from God where humility makes us capable of knowing God and needing God. Without humility we are not poor in spirt. Without humility we can’t be gentle or mourn our losses. Without humility pride blinds us to those who hunger and thirst for what is right. Humility helps us see our need for mercy that we share with those who need it too. Humility makes us pure in heart and leads us to peace. Only then can we ourselves be peacemakers. Humility allows us to feel the sufferings of others and know what they are going through. Humility prepares us to suffer if this is what love requires.
The Beatitudes offer a programme for happiness for which humility is the key. Be humble and if we are, we will be happy. Among all the gurus who advise us how to be happy, no one but Jesus Christ and his Gospel point to this route in the pursuit of happiness. But blessed are we if we follow it! ‘True humility is always accompanied by greatness of heart and confidence in the Lord’ (Blessed Don Columba Marmion).