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1 Session 2: What Would Jesus Do? The Beatitudes as a Path to True Happiness A t World Youth Day 2002, St. John Paul II pointed out that Jesus gave us the true path to happiness the Beatitudes almost two millennia ago. Christ has the answer to this desire of yours. But he asks you to trust him. True joy is a victory, something which cannot be obtained without a long and difficult struggle. Christ holds the secret of this victory The Sermon the Mount marks out the map of this journey (to true happiness). The eight Beatitudes are the road signs that show the way. It is an uphill path, but he has walked it before us. By uphill path, St. John Paul II acknowledged that the kind of happiness Jesus offers can be difficult to achieve. It is the result of living by the grace of God and with our hearts set on his kingdom, rather than the passing things of this world. While it s not always easy to care about justice and peace, to mourn the pain and sin in the world, to be pure enough to see a person rather than an object in a member of the opposite sex, or to be hated for doing what s right, those are the types of things that bring us the happiness we were made for. It s a blessedness that lasts even through the hard times in life, because even in the midst of great pain, we can still know what life s all about and where we re ultimately headed. It s a happiness that nothing can take from us, both now and for eternity. (Chosen Student Workbook, pg 192) I have felt the deep longing that beats within your hearts: You want to be happy! Dear young people, many and enticing are the voices that call out to you from all sides: many of these voices speak to you of a joy that can be had with money, with success, with power. Mostly they propose a joy that comes with the superficial and fleeting pleasure of the senses. -St. John Paul II The Beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness. This desire is of divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it. The Beatitudes reveal the goal of human existence, the ultimate end of human acts: God calls us to his own beatitude (happiness).

2 The Beatitudes Which beatitude resonates most with you? Which one do you need to work on the most? What can you do to work on it? Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. What does being holy have to do with being happy? How can living the Beatitudes make us happier and more peaceful? Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3-10) Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven! Matthew 5:12 B eatitude means ultimate happiness. Throughout history, people have pursued happiness in different ways, with varying degrees of success. We often find that the things we thought would make us happy, really don t, or that the happiness we experience does not last. God made us to find and experience beatitude, ultimate and never-ending happiness, with him. He put the desire for happiness in us and made it so strong that we would never give up the pursuit. Those who have most consistently found lasting happiness in life have found it in a life lived for and with him. Don t worry, be happy find God. He s waiting for you. The Beatitudes are among Jesus most fundamental teachings, describing the attitudes and rewards of the blessed. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3). The Beatitudes can seem to contradict our experience (how many people really consider it a blessing to be persecuted?), but they cause us to consider life from God s perspective. Those who try to find happiness in the pursuit of pleasure, power, wealth, or social standing are often disappointed, but those who practice the Beatitudes find that they lead to beatitude, that is, ultimate and lasting happiness. (Chosen Student Workbook, pg 193)

3 Session 2: What Would Jesus Do? The Beatitudes as a Path to True Happiness Don t obsess about money and achievement. Don t be afraid to let your heart feel sad, and to share in the hurts of others. Don t be too quick to take credit for the things you do well, or let it bother you when others don t recognize your contributions. Stay focused on God, until it feels like an unquenchable hunger. When people offend you or hurt you, forgive them right away. Don t hold on to grudges. Keep your heart clean, even if it means not going to popular movies or parties. Go out of your way to help others know God, even when it feels awkward and inconvenient. Consider the following ideas when praying the Beatitudes line by line: How Can I Put your trust in God Mt 5:3 Repent of your sins Mt 5:4 Learn gentleness Mt 5:5 Become righteous Mt 5:6 Show mercy Mt 5:7 Seek and grow in holiness Mt 5:8 Make peace Mt 5:9 Rejoice through persecution Mt 5:10-12 If people make fun of you for doing all of these things well, smile and be happy, because that s a sure sign that things are going well! It is always a joyful experience for us to read and reflect on the Beatitudes! Jesus proclaimed them in his first great sermon, preached on the shore of the seal of Galilee. There was a very large crowd, so Jesus went up on the mountain to teach his disciples. In the Bible, the mountain is regarded as a place where God reveals himself. Jesus, by preaching on the mount, reveals himself to be a divine teacher, a new Moses. What does he tell us? He shows us the way to life, the way that he himself has taken. Jesus himself is the way, and he proposes this way as the path to true happiness. Throughout his life, from his birth in the stable in Bethlehem until his death on the cross and his resurrection, Jesus embodied the Beatitudes. All the promises of God s Kingdom were fulfilled in him. - Pope Francis

4 The foundation of morality, of doing the right thing, is found in the first chapter of Genesis: We are made in the image of God (Gen 1:27). [That means] that you and every other person on earth are first and foremost essentially good. When you choose wisely, you are acting in accordance with your true natures. This is why doing the right thing ultimately makes people happy. Happiness is not determined by what we normally see in magazines, on television, or in the movies. Our source of happiness is not material success, fame, or unending hours of leisure and pleasure; rather, what God intends for us is complete joy and a sense of well-being. Our ultimate destiny is to be eternally happy with God in heaven. Jesus gives us a glimpse of this destiny in the Beatitudes. These statements are at the heart of Jesus message. They help us understand what being a Christian is all about, so that one day we will share God s eternal life. Being made in God s image does not make us perfect; God gave us a soul, intellect, and free will to make our own choices. Although God wants each of us to be part of the Kingdom Jesus spoke about, free will means we have the freedom to accept or reject God s will. Adam and Eve exercised this freedom when they chose to go against God s plan for them to live in harmony with all that God had created. God created us in his image with a natural desire to follow the moral law, to do good and avoid evil. At the same time, because of Original Sin, we are inclined toward sin, or choosing to do the wrong thing. The ability to use reason to distinguish between right and wrong is the work of our conscience. Our conscience is the interior voice that helps us know right from wrong and then act on that knowledge. Moral development never stops, no matter how old we get, until we reach our final glorious destiny with God in heaven. The Scriptures and Church Tradition are our road map on this lifelong journey. The Beatitudes give us Jesus vision for how to build a moral life. Being poor in spirit, merciful, and pure of heart describe the kind of person Jesus was and the kind of person we are called to be. Catholic Faith Handbook, pg God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. God willed that man should be left in the hand of his own counsel, so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him. By free will one shapes one s own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude. The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to the slavery of sin. The morality of human acts depends on: The object chosen The end in view or the intention The circumstances of the action

5 Session 2: What Would Jesus Do? The Beatitudes as a Path to True Happiness Freedom (taken from Theology of the Body for Teens pg 67-72) Freedom cannot be reduced to a wide variety of choices or the absence of boundaries. Instead, real freedom comes from recognizing the truth and choosing to live in it, through Jesus Christ, who is the Truth. Freedom is not about escaping rules, responsibilities, or external constraints. Authentic freedom involves accepting and living out the truth of who we are (children of God) and for what we are created (love and communion). Freedom entails living without internal constraints on our hearts. Challenge of the Week Being truly free does not entail merely obeying the law or abiding by external constraints. People who are truly free are not held back nor bothered by internal constraints they have no desire to break the external constraints (the law), so they don t need them. This is real freedom, when our hearts are redeemed and our desires come into conformity with God s desires. Then we are able to desire and to choose the good, and ultimately we desire and choose God. Once we choose God and allow Him to transform our desires, then the moral life becomes a life not about rules, but about love. We obey God s commands not because we have to but because we want to If we live for ourselves, we miss the point of our existence. And living in this way leaves us unfulfilled. Get out of your comfort zone. Think about what makes your favorite hero great, and pick one small step you can take this week to become more like him or her. Write about it in the space below, and find a way to take that step this week! Meditate on the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 using lectio divina techniques. (Remember to read, reflect, relate, and rest.) Comment on the Beatitude that you related to most in the space below. Think about your favorite saint, and write about how that person lived the Beatitudes in his or her life.

6 Reflection What Beatitude is most difficult for me to live out? Why? Am I ready to start the uphill path that leads to God and to true happiness? Why or why not? What sins are enslaving me? How can I break free to live as a child of God? The root of all our trouble is that freedom for God and in God has been interpreted as freedom from God. Freedom is ours to give away. Each of us reveals what we believe to be the purpose of life by the way we use that freedom. Venerable Fulton Sheen ( ) Catechism of the Catholic Church Beatitudes ( ), Freedom ( ), Morality and Conscience ( ) Pope Francis letters for World Youth Day, Pope Francis General Audience on August 6, 2014 Newadvent.org search: Beatitudes, Free Will, Freedom

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