While Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!’ But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!’
We live in a society that is driven by a restless search for happiness. Millions buy lottery tickets each week in the hope that they will win the ‘life changing’ money that will bring about the happiness they crave. Others find different ways of pursuing that happiness. However that ‘need’ might manifest itself, so many of us are guilty of putting ourselves as near the front of the queue as possible as we strive for worldly riches, worldly power, that all-elusive dream of ‘happiness’.
In today’s short reading from Luke’s gospel this human search for worldly happiness is put into context. From the crowd, we are told of one voice that stands out as a woman shouts: Blessed is the womb that bore you. That word blessed is one that can also be translated from the Greek as happy. The woman shouting from the crowd is talking of a happiness (a blessedness) that would only ever have been experienced by the comparative few who bumped into the human Jesus during the three years of his earthly ministry. However, Jesus’ response offers far more hope, happiness and blessedness than that.
Jesus guides us away from the transitory happiness that we see in our modern celebrity culture. Many came to see Jesus as he journeyed around the Holy Land some two thousand years ago. Similarly, many journey to catch a glimpse of their favourite pop stars, sportsmen and sportswomen in action, or someone else they ‘look up to’ from the mundanity of their daily lives. However, Jesus casts this need to ‘catch a glimpse of’ someone famous aside as he speaks of a permanent and far more fulfilling sense of happiness (blessedness) that is available to us all.
Jesus points us away from our worldly celebrities and directs our attention to the word of God. Jesus invites us to focus our attention on scripture and prayer, rather than on the gathering of selfies and autographs. And … Jesus leads us towards achieving a level of happiness (blessedness) that can only come from entering into the deepest of relationships with God, and that is rooted in our living every moment of our lives according to God’s law, God’s will for us.
Our burning desire for worldly happiness has nothing to do with blessedness, even if the words are interchangeable as we translate the gospel. Our desire for worldly happiness takes us into ourselves and our secret longings. The word of God, and our willingness to obey that word, takes us into a very different place, a place where our happiness will know no bounds, for the whole of eternity.
Let us pray that we might set aside the superficial and the transitory and draw closer to our loving Heavenly Father. Let us pray that we might set aside time, each day, to engage with scripture in a prayerful way. Let us pray that we might, as we strive to obey God’s word, come to know the happiness (the blessedness) of his loving embrace.