A sermon on Matthew 5:1-12, The Beatitudes

By Fr. Mike Paraniuk
St. Mary Catholic Church (Hillsboro,
St. Benignus Catholic Church (Greenfield),
Holy Trinity Catholic Church (West Union) and
Saint Mary Queen of Heaven Catholic Church (Peebles)

If life is like a two-seated bicycle, Jan. 21, 1974 was the day when God and I switched places. He took the front seat and put me in the back. He now controlled the ride.

The first thing God did was to get me out of the Franciscan seminary where I lived for nine years from 14 years old. He rode me to Batavia where I lived for the next four years. I tried to live a normal life. Got a job in management selling radio coils, lived in an apartment so cold that in the winter I slept on the floor near the stove, cooked every meal using spaghetti, partied with friends, and went to church on Sunday.

At 23, I went on my first date. The place where I worked (Paul Smith Company) employed mostly young beautiful women with small hands to wind the coils. Finding a date there was like shooting fish in a barrel. I thanked Jesus every day I went to work! Jesus led me out of the monastery into the world to teach me about everyday life.

God used one big struggle I faced to teach me about how to deal with difficult people. My elderly boss was like a black hole. He could suck the joy right out of me. He was negative on everything. He found the problem for every solution.

God spoke to me through a co-worker who understood my predicament. He quoted Martha Washington, “I have learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions (attitudes) and not our circumstances.”

Martha was so wise. I couldn’t change my boss but I could change my “attitude” toward my boss. I made every effort to compliment my boss daily. Eventually, my positivity dispelled his negativity. When I told him four years later I was going back to the seminary, he told me how proud he was. He even attended my first Mass at Holy Trinity in Batavia. I treasure that memory 41 years later.

Jesus offers in the Beatitudes the eight attitudes a follower of Jesus should have to find true happiness. The phrase “Blesse are” has also been written as “Happy are.” The neat thing about these “Happy attitudes” is that when you live them, you receive a gift from God that will make you even more happy.

I now offer a paraphrasing of each “Be-attitude” and the blessing you receive:

1) Happy are those who know they need God (poor in spirit). They will enter His Kingdom, the source of all happiness.

2) Happy are those who feel sad (mourn) over their sins. God will give the joy of His forgiveness.

3) Happy are those who are humble (meek) before God. This makes God so happy He will be the gift that keeps on giving.

4) Happy are those who want Jesus in their lives (thirst for righteousness). He will satisfy your heart in ways this world can never do.

5) Happy are those who show mercy. In your judgement, God will forgive all your sins in the same way.

6) Happy are those who do God’s Will motivated by a desire to please God in everything (pure of heart). They will see God in every act of love.

7) Happy are those who are at peace with God and lead others to peace with God (peace maker). God will make you his child who will inherit the treasures of Heaven.

8) Happy are you when life persecutes you with sufferings. If you remain faithful to God, God will give you a great reward in His Kingdom, tailor made just for you.

Jesus expects you to act this way if you are serious about following Him. The “Happy attitudes” are a way of life that will bring you joy in all circumstances. Philippians 4:6-7 makes more sense to me now: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Let the church say “Amen.”

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