Solemnity of All Saints
First Reading: Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 24:1-6
Second Reading: 1st Letter of St. John 3:1-3
Gospel: According to St. Mathew 5:1-12
In 1980 Johnny Lee had the number one country hit in the land with “Lookin’ for Love” from the Urban Cowboy soundtrack. (Because of the sheer quality of country music song titles I would be remiss if I did not mention the songs that preceded and followed Johnny Lee’s hit in the number one spot: Ronnie Milsap’s “Cowboys and Clowns” and Dolly Parton’s “Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle to You.” I’m not a big fan of the music, but I am a huge fan of the titles.)
The song is most remembered for the line from which the title comes: “Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places.” But whether someone’s cultural memory includes that film or song, the universal nature of the sentiment is obvious. We are constantly looking in the wrong places for the right things.
Happiness is a universal desire, yet it eludes us so often because we are looking for it in all of the wrong places. Aquinas is pretty clear about where not to look: wealth, pleasure, fame, honors, and power. He is also pretty clear about where to look: God.
In today’s Gospel Jesus delivers the Sermon on the Mount, the blueprint for His ministry, wherein he gives us the Beatitudes. The word ‘beatitude’ simply means ‘happiness’ and so Jesus is telling us how to be happy.
To follow the Beatitudes is to look for happiness in all the right places. Jesus tells us that if we follow His directions then we will “rejoice and be glad,” and who doesn’t want to rejoice and be glad? Yet in reading the list one is reminded that these Jesus-approved roads to happiness are out of sync with the everyday lives of most people’s daily pursuits.
The pursuit of wealth, pleasure, fame, honors, and power get us no closer to beatitude than a horse gets closer to food when chasing a carrot on a stick. To pursue happiness is to run after a constantly receding goal. To pursue poverty of spirit, righteousness, mercy, peace, cleanliness of heart; to be in solidarity with those who mourn and those who are small in the eyes of the world – these are what make us happy. To deny this is to proclaim Jesus as a liar.
So if Jesus is telling us the truth, then maybe the world is telling us the lie, and maybe that’s why Jesus warns us that we will be insulted and persecuted for following His recipe for happiness and unmasking the world and all of its trappings.
The earthly rewards for those who pursue earthly goods can be almost limitless, yet can be taken away in an instant. Even if a person reaches her or his deathbed with wealth, pleasure, fame, honors, and power all intact, at the moment of death they are all gone and all that remains are those things which Jesus told us to pursue in the Beatitudes. And in that moment, after looking for happiness in all the right places those who have listened to and acted upon the words of Jesus will hear the greatest lyrics of all time:
“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in Heaven.”