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Is there a difference between happiness and the blessedness Christ promises in the Beatitudes?

Missionaries of Charity

Caitlin Bootsma - published on 04/19/13

Blessedness trumps worldly happiness because it is the promise of everlasting life

Wikipedia defines happiness as “a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.” As we all know from experience, the reasons for our happiness as well as the gradations of happiness can vary greatly. We can be happy that the weather is nice today, and we can be happy that our spouse was cured of cancer – two very different experiences. What is central to this broad-ranging emotional state is that it is a subjective reality, which depends on an individual person’s emotional reactions to various circumstances in life.

The blessedness that Christ promises us in the Beatitudes is sure to ultimately bring happiness, but it cannot be reduced to an emotional state. Indeed, when we look at the Beatitudes, quite a few of these propositions sound like they could cause some unhappiness, at least in the worldly sense of the word: “Blessed are they who mourn;” “Blessed are they who are persecuted;” etc. These afflictions hardly seem to suggest a recipe for “pleasant emotions.”

Yet the blessedness of which Christ speaks is the favor that the Lord bestows upon those who live virtuously. The Catechism teaches that “[t]he life of the blessed consists in the full and perfect possession of the fruits of the redemption accomplished by Christ. He makes partners in his heavenly glorification those who have believed in him and remained faithful to his will. Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ” (1026).

While we may suffer for Christ’s sake here on earth, blessedness promises us eternal happiness through union with the Lord in Heaven. Much more than a pleasant emotion, blessedness is an objective reality – a state of being among those who will see God and live in perfect happiness for all eternity.

This is not to say that happiness and blessedness are mutually exclusive; after all, the Christian life is one of joy. This joy is deeper, however, than a mere emotional state, as it is rooted in Christ’s promise of salvation – a promise that sees us through both the pleasant and the difficult parts of life on earth.

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