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Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

1 Cor. 7:25-31& Lk. 6:20-26

The portion of Saint Paul's letter to the Christians at Corinth which is in today's liturgy makes very strange reading. From this some people have gained the impression that he had little time for marriage. But this is not true.

He was so wrapped up in the Lord that he had reached that stage of his life when all that mattered was union with the Lord. Human relationships are important in this life, of course, and Paul would not deny this. But there comes a time when such things pale into insignificance - and all that matters is the Lord.

We must also remember that the early Christians believed that Christ's second coming was imminent. That is why Paul speaks with such a sense of urgency. He seems to be saying, 'Whatever your present status in life, don’t seek to change it. Don’t make any long-term-plans.'

The lesson for us from this reading is to have our eyes on the world to come. Our human relationships, our jobs, our hobbies, are all valuable in themselves, but they are all stepping stones to our ultimate destiny with our heavenly Father. Every decision we make should be in the context of eternity.

Jesus' teachings are full of surprises and contradictions. The things that we often strive for in this life are not the things which will bring us true blessings. We might have thought that the happiest people would be the rich, those who had plenty to eat, those who are having fun, those who are well respected by society. But Jesus turns all these suppositions upside down.

The people He describes as happy are the poor in spirit. They are completely dependent upon God, realising that everything they have comes from Him. Even those who are materially wealthy can be poor in spirit - if they recognise that their ability to make money is a gift from God.

Can the hungry be happy? Here Jesus refers to those who hunger for the true riches in life, such as justice, truth and wisdom. If we are striving for them Jesus assures us that we will have them, and our hunger will be satisfied.

"Happy are you who weep." Jesus does not want our lives to be full of sadness, but He is asking us to weep for our sins. This involves a constant effort to avoid evil and do good. When we truly repent of our sins we experience the happiness of forgiveness.

How can we be happy when the people around us reject or insult us? Jesus asks us to be ready to suffer unpopularity for His sake. We may be scorned for attending Mass every Sunday. We may be attacked because of our views on abortion, contraception, divorce, gay marriages, fair trade, the arms race and other important issues. We are not going to be rewarded in this life for championing these causes, but Jesus assures us that our reward will be great in Heaven.

The ways of the world can be very persuasive, but Jesus challenges us to try His way.

Holy Spirit, give us the courage to be more and more like Jesus, especially when following Him involves us in conflict and sacrifice, because ultimately it is the only way to real happiness.

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