Daily Reflection
June 12th, 2000
Eileen Wirth
Journalism Department
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

1 Kings 17:1-7
Psalms 121:1-8
Matthew 5:1-12

When I reread the Beatitudes (probably my favorite Scripture passage), I’m struck by how radically counter-cultural they are today and surely were 2,000 years ago.  In essence, Jesus suggests that we follow a road through life which contradicts nearly every message our culture sends us about what we should want and do to be happy. 

This is a dangerous thinker who could do dreadful things to the Gross National Product if his followers took him seriously. 

The ads on TV suggest what our dominant culture values most: 

• Great possessions and luxurious leisure – cars, clothes, cruises
• Abundant sex 
• Power, money and status
• Physical beauty
• Youth and health
• Junk food

This “good life” is a version of “la dolce vita.”  Ironically, even “health” is achieved through purchase of some nostrum, piece of equipment or gym membership.  Generally the list suggests that happiness lies in instant gratification of superficial desires.  If we want contentment, buy a Coke or head for McDonald’s! 

What’s interesting is what’s missing: 

• Faith
• Hope 
• Concern for others, especially the poor and powerless
• Coping with suffering and pain through something that can’t be purchased in some bottle
• The joy of giving

The road that Jesus points us toward in the Beatitudes involves a lot of things Madison Avenue doesn’t want us to think about, such as self denial, concern for justice and peace, and (heaven forbid) even purity. 

This road wouldn’t move a nickel’s worth of product.  It would be a disaster on TV.  Then what would happen to the economy????

I suppose that one reason I love the Beatitudes so much is that I am fundamentally selfish.  I’m looking for happiness and the good  life as much as anyone else.  I own a lot of nice things which I enjoy.  My family will attest that I’ll jump at the chance for carryout rather than cook.

But these pleasant things don’t really bring happiness or hope.  They don’t help on a sleepless night in the midst of a family crisis.  They mean absolutely nothing when a relative or close friend has just died.

At these times, the message of Jesus, so beautifully encapsulated in the Beatitudes, reminds me of what is important, real and lasting. 

Each of the Beatitudes is worth a full reflection.  Each offers its own insight into the path to long term happiness and the good life but I’ll close with thoughts on what two, especially, mean to me. 

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

No one in his or her right mind seeks suffering but it’s unavoidable.  We all walk through our own dark nights of the soul at one time or another.  But Jesus assures us that our suffering is only temporary.  Today we may mourn but it won’t last forever.  We may even be better, stronger, more loving and insightful people as a result of our ordeal.  There are no guarantees, of course, but there’s hope.  We can go forward, even in the hardest times, with this faith and hope

“Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.”

We all need mercy because we all fail in so many ways, frequently unintended.  We hurt those we love and even those we barely know.  Mercy implies a combination of forgiveness and accountability.  We can seek mercy because we realize we have made a mistake and plan to do something about it.  This offers us hope and healing when we are the mercy-seeker. 

However, Jesus makes it just a bit harder. We all want mercy but we can only expect it when we err if we extend it to others when we are the wronged party. 
We have to be willing to surrender our hurt and anger when we’d really like to hang onto to them.  Ironically we can’t heal from being wronged until we surrender our anger.  Of course we can’t lead the good life until we heal.  Extending mercy to others leads to healing for ourselves. 

Even a MasterCard TV ad acknowledges that there are things that its magic plastic can’t procure.  The Beatitudes suggest that the “good life” tops that list! 

Click on the link below to send an e-mail response
to the writer of this reflection.
Online Ministries
Home Page
for Sunday
Online Retreat
Daily Readings Texts
from the
New American Bible
Daily Readings Texts
from the
RSV Bible
Spirituality Links
Saint of the Day
Collaborative Ministry Office 
Home Page
University Ministry
Home Page
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook