How Happy are you?
Apparently not very if you were born after 1957. Why? Well believe it or not, according to researchers at Warwick University, 1957 was the happi- est year in the UK of the last century. So perhaps the then Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was right when he made his famous statement that we had “never had it so good”. But what is “happiness” and how do we measure it? The researchers at the University apparently looked at over eight million books, analysing words like ‘enjoyment’, ‘vacation’, ‘peaceful’, ‘murder’, ‘disease’ and ‘starvation’ and the changing patterns of their usage. I wonder if they bothered looking at the Sermon on the Mount and its first twelve verses?
When Jesus began to speak to the disciples who followed him up the hill, I think he had pretty much already fashioned in his mind what he wanted to say to them. Remember last week how we heard that Jesus began his ministry by declaring “Repent the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand”. Now he elaborates to them just what that reality means. He isn’t talking of a utopian, idyllic vision of a country which is just around the corner waiting to be discovered. No, rather he is speaking of a concept which is already coming about, by virtue of who we are, and by what we are do- ing. This was the ‘Good News’ he was bringing. That the reign of God is to be expressed and made manifest through each one of us accepting God’s love for us in and through the words we speak, and the actions we under- take. So that when we console or show mercy, or when we work for jus- tice and hunger for righteousness, when we work tirelessly for peace we are making the kingdom present. And for that, Jesus tells us we are
blessed. Blessed not in order to make us puff ourselves up or boast about our achievements, but rather because through our deeds and words the knowledge and experience of God’s love makes its presence felt.
How so? Well if you think of what Jesus went about doing and saying then you soon realise just what the reign of God is about. The healings, the making whole, the liberating from possession, the bringing back the lost and the outcast, are all demonstrations of how this love changes and restores people. Of how much it values and re-affirms them and of how much it enriches and endows them with self-esteem. But how to make it happen remains the ongoing question. It is a continuous task which will never finish until the end. We must be constantly striving to tell people of what our faith has to offer and to let them see how, through the applica- tion of our deeds of mercy and gentleness, of poverty of spirit and purity of heart our hope for a just and peaceful world is not pipe dream or a forlorn expectation.
It demands that we take up the call to discipleship just as Simon and Andrew, James and John did. It calls us to use our skills and talents, be it in the home or in the work place, to manifest God’s loving kingdom so that it finds that rich soil in which it will flourish and grow. It simply asks that we be true to the image and likeness in which we have all been cre- ated.
Happiness then is not a determinate of how many times certain words are recorded in books, but happiness and blessedness are the active applica- tion of God’s love for all to see.