Sermon on the Mount – Part 1 Matthew 5:1-10
After Jesus was baptized at the River Jordan and declared by John the Baptist to be the ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’, the book of Matthew tells of his going off by himself into the wilderness for 40 days where he faced some pretty awful temptations. (We’ll be looking at that on March 1, the first Sunday of Lent.) Then, after hearing about John the Baptist’s imprisonment and immanent death we see him heading off towards Galilee, where he began calling his disciples: First were brothers Simon (who became Peter) and Andrew, followed by James and John, known as ‘Sons of Zebedee’.
That’s when his ministry really took off. Jesus began preaching the Gospel of God’s just and gracious love and curing every disease. People came from all of Galilee, Jerusalem, Judea, even Persia, and ‘he cured all who were brought to him’.
Which brings us to the sermon he preached from the side of the mountain above Capernaum, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, known as the Sermon on the Mount. We’ll be looking at aspects of this over the next 3 weeks.
Today’s reading concerns just some of the first verses, a collection of 8 blessings, each of which begin with the Latin word ‘Beati’ meaning ‘Happy’ or ‘Blessed’. As a result these verses are known as the ‘Beatitudes’
It seems that Jesus does have favorites! Just as we all do. Remember how I reminded you of who your favourite child is – that, invariably, it is the one who is currently most needing you. That’s how Jesus is always looking out for those of us who are MOST in need: the poor, those who are sad, in mourning, the meek, the hungry and thirsty: they are always his priority. And if we are properly to be following him, they must be our priority as well!
Of course, that includes ‘the hungry and thirsty’ in all its forms: (Emotionally/ socially/ spiritually) but it’s perhaps ESPECIALLY – those who are physically hungry!
There’s something quite wonderful about Jesus and food! Perhaps that’s why he created the Eucharist sacrament to be all about food! He could have said: whenever you bathe, or whenever you are out walking in nature, or socializing with friends, but no. It’s FOOD! It’s as we eat & drink that we are to THINK OF HIM! Notice too how at the high point of his ministry – when it came to the judging of those who are ‘in’ and ‘out’- the separating of the sheep from the goats[i] – his justification for doing so was based on: ‘I was hungry and you fed me? / hungry and you did not feed me’ ‘But where did we see you hungry and feed or not feed you?” they asked. And his answer still resonates down the ages: ‘Whatever you do or don’t do to the least of these, you do or don’t do to me!’
It’s truly not about all our careful religious practices & rituals… It’s about us noticing and caring about the needs of those all around us and then doing something to meet those needs!
Fr Richard Rohr pulls no punches here: Following Christ (he writes) – is not so much a theory or a philosophy as a lifestyle. It’s a way of being in the world that is simple, non-violent, shared, and loving. However, we made it into an established “religion” (and all that goes with that) and avoided the lifestyle change itself. One (can be ) warlike, greedy, racist, selfish, and vain …and still believe that Jesus is one’s “personal Lord and Savior”
That’s what Christendom was able to do! …The world has no time for such silliness anymore. The suffering on Earth is too great.
Catholic News reports that Pope Francis proposed “modern Beatitudes” during his visit to Sweden on All Saints Day in 2016 – they include:
- Blessed are those who remain faithful while enduring evils inflicted on them by others and forgive them from their heart
- Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized and show them their closeness
- Blessed are those who see God in every person and strive to make others also discover God with them…
- Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home
- Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others
Folks, we make this complicated – but Jesus actually didn’t. Of course this faith of ours is about us knowing who we are: …living justly. Loving widely. Giving generously. But then it’s about us actually being a physical & spiritual blessing to all those whom the world tends so easily to overlook. We are to be on the lookout for them, spot them, feed them, love them!
Elsewhere, Jesus took this to a whole new level as he spiritualized our taking & sharing of bread in his encounter with his disciples. After they expressed their concern that he wasn’t eating, he answered[ii]: ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about’. And ‘My food is to do the will of the One who sent me and to complete that work.’
We are all hungry and in need of Christ’s bread. …some physically, all of us spiritually. The only difference is that some of us are more aware of that fact than others. …and as we are aware we are also all SO EASILY distracted – thinking that we can use all sorts of cheap substitutes to fill us. No! This is the real stuff! Come & eat! And having eaten – go and share! It’s for us to ensure that others are getting whatever sustenance they need to become all they are meant to be – and as we do so, so we are following Jesus.
[i] Matthew 25
[ii] John 4:31-34
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