Today’s Gospel proclaims the beatitude teaching of Jesus in the Sermon
on the Mount. A new community is created here.
This Sunday the first reading works toward showing us how much the spirit of the Hebrew Scriptures is present in the teachings of Jesus. The prophet Zephaniah speaks of a “remnant”. Zephaniah begins the long development of the theological meaning of humility, poverty, and lowliness as contained in the Hebrew word “anawim”. New Testament saints like Mary, see in poverty an interior attitude of dependence upon God. We can make a litany of Saints who lived this attitude, Juan Diego, Mother Teresea, Pope John XXIII, St. Theresa of the Little Flower, St. Martin de Porres, etc., etc.
Raymond Brown comments on the beginning of Chapter 5. “More than any other teacher of morality, the Matthean Jesus instructs with divine power and authority, and by this empowerment makes possible a new existence. There are parallels between Moses and the Matthean Jesus. The OT conveyor of divine revelation encountered God on a mountain, the NT revealer speaks to his disciples on a mountain. For Christians, next to the Ten Commandments as an expression of God’s will, the eight Beatitudes have been revered for expressing succinctly the values on which Jesus placed priority. In the comparable Lucan passage there are only four beatitudes (phrased more concretely: “you who are poor…hungry now…weep now…when people hate you”), and it is likely that Matt has added spiritualizing phrases (‘poor, in spirit…hunger and thirst for righteousness”) and four spiritual beatitudes (meek, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers). Seemingly Matt’s community has some people who are not physically poor and hungry; and the evangelist gives assurance that there was an outreach of Jesus to them as well, if they have attitudes attuned to the kingdom. Jesus teaches these beatitudes to the disciples who are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. (Christ in the Gospels of the Ordinary Sundays, Raymond Brown, pp23,24)
…the values on which Jesus placed priority. Later on in chapter 5, vs. 20 Jesus says, “I tell you unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
In A Man and His God, (p. 30) Martin Pables writes: “…we, without fully realizing it, have allowed our vision to be shaped by something other than the gospel of Jesus Christ. His gospel is in fierce competition with what I and others call “the cultural gospel.” There is another set of values and standards around that is so all pervasive that we barely recognize it, much less examine and challenge it.” He then goes on to list aspects of the Cultural Gospel: Blessed are the rich and comfortable (poor) ; Blessed are the tough (meek) ; Blessed are they whose every want is satisfied (hunger and thirst for righteousness) ; Blessed are they who get even (merciful) ; Blessed are you when they accept you and pamper you (insult you and persecute you).
Cardinal Bernardin commented on Jesus words: “…learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your souls will find rest…” “Jesus practiced what he preached. He was gentle toward the people he served and humbly obedient to the will of his Father. He called us to love one another and laid down his own life for us. The ‘rest’ he offers us comes from adopting and living each day his attitudes, his values, his mission, his ministry, his willingness to lay down his very life–in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.”
Pope Francis has preached clearly and powerfully about the evil of “materialistic consumerism,” and against Capitalism which is focused on creating the greatest profit possible. We hear the health and wealth Gospel. These are contortions of the Gospel. We live in challenging times and are so influenced by our culture with messages of exclusive, luxury, etc. The beatitude teaching of Jesus challenges us not to be swept up into false things.