Scripture: Lectionary 374. II Kings 24:8-17. Psalm 79:1-2,3-5,8.9. Matthew 7:21-29:
Matthew’s first of five great teachings of Jesus is the Sermon on the Mount. We have heard it in the liturgy these past two weeks; today it comes to a close. Matthew is such an organized evangelist and literary expert that he leads us through the five teachings by ending the first with these words: “when Jesus finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at this teaching.” Words similar to this will follow in the next four teachings. What a craftsman with words!
We conclude the Sermon on the Mount which begins with Jesus sitting down and as a new Moses presenting the Torah to the public not just to his followers and disciples. We know this is a framework and blueprint for living a wholesome life while doing God’s will. This requires being aware of God as we carry out our “travel plans” for the journey we take each day with God and Jesus. We all wonder and ask how can I know the will of God? The Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7) outline for us the spirituality of a disciple who knows the will of God by following this teaching of Jesus which is based on the Torah, especially on the fifth scroll, that of Deuteronomy. It is one of the most encouraging books in the Bible and the Beatitudes are among the most encouraging of rules of life that have ever been composed.
The beatitudes and the teachings of this first sermon of Jesus are the key to understanding all of the teachings of Jesus that will follow in parables, similes, and wisdom sayings. Scripture is the teacher of other parts of Scripture. Parallel passages are keys to one another that open up their meaning and confirm our own interpretation based on faith and reason. It is the oft cited phrase of St. Anselm, “Fides quaerens intellectum” — faith seeking sound reasoning while interpreting our faith and our Scriptures.
At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount we learn how to be blessed in the sight of God and how to give true blessing and praise to God by living out these principles of righteous living. The Beatitudes are similar to a “system of virtues” and they come directly from the wisdom of Jesus, the Son of God. They foster in us good dispositions, habits, and virtues and make our life worth living with profound joy and peace. They are not superficial do-it-for yourself rules but actually inspired words of the God-Man Jesus. We can develop them by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving understood in new ways that enliven those three pillars of our belief. We know that the Lord’s prayer is at the center of the Sermon and that it basically is a prayer of relationships—first to God and then to our neighbor. God’s mercy and justice are contained within it so that we may be led to imitate God in our total forgiveness of one another without holding on to past hurts that we doled out or that we have received. We all are called to such wholesome holiness that is outlined in Jesus’ first sermon.
We are all God’s People and Jesus has shown us the way to be God’s people as we really are by his own life and his teaching. Amen.
Copyright 2012 Fr. Bertand Buby