My nephew was about to “graduate” from kindergarten. He put on his paper mortarboard and marched with his class to the stage. As he received his “diploma”, Jason shook hands with his teacher. After the ceremony, we each said “Congratulations.” Jason looked at us and asked, “What does that mean?” His mom and dad answered, “Good job!”
That answer worked for a five year old!
While this may be sufficient for a five year old, sometimes something deeper is intended. If we look at the Latin – “congratulations” means “to be pleased with” or “graced with.” When we offer our congratulations, we are saying we rejoice with the other and it expresses a relationship.
The Beatitudes in our Gospel today announce God’s pleasure in and relationship to the poor, to those who are excluded and hated. The Beatitudes seem to describe behaviors and attitudes that we generally ascribe to those we call “saints.” Yet, all of us can name good people we know— truly good people. We can name the qualities and actions that lead us to judge them truly good. These (and we ourselves) are truly good—the blessed. It is awesome to think that our own halting efforts at being really good—at extending mercy, justice, and righteousness to others as God has extended them to us—are one means for bringing God’s blessedness to others! Simply sharing in God’s work of salvation—providing for those in need—is a blessing in itself that brings unequaled happiness.
Our deepest happiness comes not from fulfilling our own needs and wants, but from reaching out to others as God reaches out to us in blessing. Happiness that comes from our own desires and efforts is fleeting; the blessings of God that are showered upon us as we live humbly, justly, and faithfully last forever. Here’s the truly amazing part: the happiness we share now is but a taste of our great reward in heaven.