Our Gospel lesson is Matthew 5:1-12, taken today from the Common English Bible (CEB).
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up a mountain. He sat down and his disciples came to him. He taught them, saying: “Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad. Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth. Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full. Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy. Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God. Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children. Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Happy are you when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me. Be full of joy and be glad, because you have a great reward in heaven. In the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you.”
In this translation we are taught that people who follow God’s path are “happy”, a little different understanding than versions that say “blessed”. Jesus tells us when we are willing to be in connection with God, we may experience these situations because the world opposes God’s rule. It changes our expectations of what kind of king Jesus is and how God’s kingdom will come on earth.
Jesus wants us to know the joy of doing God’s will, but also the challenges the world will throw in our way. He doesn’t ignore the fact that we will have difficulty dealing with those who reject God’s blessing and happiness. It is not a promise of easy living but a call to live out the Good News in spite of what we face.
God wants us to be happy, but more than that He wants us to be part of His plan for the salvation of the world. Sharing our joy with others won’t always be easy or successful – they must choose a relationship with God for themselves. Our task is to continue in His strength regardless of the world’s attempts to defeat us.
Gracious God, we are grateful to be called as Your servants here and in eternity. Help us to be strong when we face temptation or oppression, sharing Your love with all. Amen.