On Saturday, I took a walk in the neighbourhood of a poorer community. I came across this store, it jolted my memory back to a childhood 50 years ago. In today’s expression, this would be called a convenience store. It seemed like time had left this store behind. There it appeared somewhat frozen in a time capsule. Only the old couple aged along with the passage of time. I greeted them and wondered if they ever found happiness in life.
Later that day, I read a write-up about the plight of urban refugees in Bangkok, their situation worsened with this pandemic. They are mainly Pakistani Catholics fleeing various forms of persecution. They are destined to spend years of their life as refugees, each turn of the year bringing fresh hope, each year end adding another stroke to its count. They look to the future, wondering if they have one. They do not have much, only the hope their faith offers. They are not able to eke out a living. Can they eke out happiness in life?
“How happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. (Sunday’s Gospel). To be “poor in spirit” means to live our life dependent on God. Hence to be poorer in spirit means to be even more trusting in God that everything will be okay. So, happy will we be, and happy are we when we are poor in spirit. Ours is the kingdom of heaven.
So, what is true happiness? It is true that money does buy happiness. It is a human reality that material comforts do make us happy. The old couple and the urban refugees are likely to agree. We cannot deny this worldly happiness. But we will also need a form of spiritual happiness because we are all humans with an inner being, a soul. Our worldly life is a reality, and its our nature to be always trying to eke out happiness out of it.
From the Gospel of two Sundays ago, there are two sides to the coin, our worldly life, and our spiritual life. But it is one coin. It is inseparable. Being one coin, we understand that worldly life and spiritual life are inter-linked. Our worldly life is a pilgrim’s journey, the pilgrim being our soul, where the pilgrim must navigate to search for her way home to the Creator. The first reading today described this homecoming:
“One of the elders then spoke, and asked me, ‘Do you know who these people are, dressed in white robes, and where they have come from?’ I answered him, ‘You can tell me, my lord.’ Then he said, ‘These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.’” (First Reading)
All of us are being drawn through the passage of life to reach the eternal glory of heaven. The passage of worldly life is a soul’s journey. It is a narrow path to keep the balance between worldly and spiritual happiness. Living the Beatitudes is living a life dependent on God, a Christian lifestyle. Sometimes our lifestyle will seem to be stuck in time, our poverty in spirit making us refugees of modern lifestyles that question the existence of our Creator. But onwards we journey, saints we become.
‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’
All Saints Day