How to be Happy: Matthew, Chapters 5-7

Bible Study

Thursdays 9:30am or 6:45pm, Jan 4 - Feb 8 in the Notre Dame classroom

What a way to start off a new year! The Bible study series How to be Happy is a focused and in-depth look at the Gospel of St. Matthew, chapters five through seven. These three chapters are of jewel of Matthew’s Gospel, the Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus announces the Kingdom of God and the repentance it requires. His teachings attract the first of his disciples and vast crowds of careworn, needy and broken people eager for his preaching of God’s mercy and love.

With Christ’s healing hands, his gentle forgiveness and the authority of his words, lives begin an eternal transformation.

The themes of the Sermon on the Mount are powerful. God’s will revealed in the Law of Moses enters fulfillment and completion in the coming of Jesus. The Jewish laws touching divorce, vengeance, adultery and anger receive a stunning and radical new interpretation through the words and actions of Jesus.

God’s love falls on both the good and the wicked. We must love and forgive our enemies as well as our friends. Jesus’ command to love one another is tough. It was as challenging in first century Palestine as it is in our present materialistic and hedonistic age. To set aside retaliation, to be truthful and to refuse to exploit others in lustful desires and personal manipulations are difficult obligations in a world that thrives on use, abuse and excess.

Yet, Almighty God’s image that Jesus provides is one of a loving, patient and devoted father. We can draw comfort from the fact that God does not love us because we deserve it; his love is a gift even to the unjust and the sinful. Our heavenly Father knows us completely. He readily knows the secrets of our hearts.

The modern world describes the commands of Christ’s sermon as impossible ideas for perfect people. Therefore, do not listen and do not even try. The easy way out of any struggle is the most popular option. Focus on self. Take and do not imitate the fool who gives. Yes, it is an attractive philosophy. Yet, does this manner of living offer real happiness? If the answer is yes, then what kind of happiness does this life choice produce?  Is it lasting and fulfilling or empty and temporary?

Living the Sermon of the Mount is the greatest challenge for any life. At the core of Jesus’ teaching is love and sacrifice just as Jesus loved and sacrificed for us on Calvary. The sermon asserts the possibility of living a different life, one of joy supported by God’s grace. Jesus’ sermon offers practical guidance in a life faithful to the Gospel message. His love is the process by which we transform from empty to abundant and from temporary to eternal.