Have you ever been in a place where you had to follow rules you weren’t used to? After spending elementary school at the public school in my neighborhood, my parent and I decided I would attend Chaminade College Prepatory School, an all-boys Catholic school. As you can imagine there were a lot of things to get used to, but one of the most shallow and yet significant was the dress code.
We didn’t have uniforms, but our dress code was no joke. Kahkis, dress shoes, collard shirt, belt, all clean and free of tears, cuts, or frays. There was more to the code,but the one rule that I struggled with most was that shirts must be tucked in at all time. It wasn’t like I didn’t try to tuck my shirt in, I just didn’t pay attention to it. I didn’t pay attention that was until Mr. Bayshore would catch me walking down the hall with my shirt out. “MR. KOSTELC! What leads you to believe that you are not subject to the same dress code as the rest of your cohorts? Do you need an hour detention to be reminded?” No, I did not.
This Sunday we hear the familiar gospel story of Jesus going up the mountain and preaching the beatitudes to the crowds. When I hear the beatitudes instantly my mind identifies the beatitude that is most difficult for me to embrace. Who wants to be meek or in poor spirit or persecuted? Yet Jesus’ central message is that in the midst of hardship, we can and will be happy. How?
Jesus is promising that in the midst of true and deep struggle we can be filled with a profound and lasting joy that isn’t subject to our circumstance. Jesus suggests something radical – our joy isn’t dependent on the moment, but on our lived relationship with God. If God is the source of our joy and God is unchanging, unwavering, and forever for us, then our joy can outshine any moment of struggle.
If you’ve been struggling lately, if you’ve felt tire or overwhelmed, if you wish for things to be made right in our world, this Sunday’s gospel is an invitation to find true happiness and everlasting joy in a lived relationship with Jesus Christ.
Read Matthew 5:1-12. Think about which of the Beatitudes would be hardest for you to accept. Ask God to help you grow in joy.