4th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” Here, in a nutshell, is the Christian belief about the afterlife. We trust that heaven is open to believers who accept the gift of salvation and follow the way of the Lord, even (or especially) when that way is difficult!
The beatitudes in today’s Gospel give us a program for following the path to heaven. These famous words offer a kind of twofold image. There are, on the one hand, the beatitudes about what we should do and be: poor in spirit, meek, merciful, clean of heart, and peacemakers. Such qualities are reflections of the nature of God in whose image we are meant to live. When we embrace and reflect this image to the world, there is no doubt we are walking on the path of God’s will.
Then, there are also the beatitudes about what we are called to endure: mourning, hunger for righteousness, persecutions and insults due to our belief in Jesus. These are the trials that often beset the life of a faithful Christian–admittedly more so in some ages and areas than in others. But Jesus makes it clear that even these trials and struggles are a sign that a Christian is on the right path, not that God has abandoned him or her, but that the reward of heaven lies around the corner.
One of the greatest consolations of our faith is that even when life does not unfold according to our own perfect designs, even when there is suffering to deal with, even when we do not have great success in the eyes of the world, we can maintain hope and peace as we await the “reward” of the just. The eternal happiness of heaven will be worth every ounce of temporary trial here on earth.