Reflection for Sunday – January 29, 2023
Readings: Zephaniah 2: 3; 3:12-13: 1 Corinthians 1: 26-31; Matthew 5: 1-12a
Preacher: Sr. Barbara Moore
Mountains in scripture are often presented as locations for God’s presence. Matthew records Jesus’ Beatitudes taught from a mountain, an event which reminds us of Moses’ encounter with God on Mount Sinai. Matthew says he went up on the mountain, whereas Luke records a similar message after his coming down from a mountain to a “level” place.”
But today Matthew is our companion. And the” Sermon on the Mount” does not stop with the beatitudes. Matthew shares many more teachings contrasting Jewish law with the interpretations Jesus adds. For example, he says in this sermon, “You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’ ”
There is also a difference between the two Gospels’ rendition of the Beatitudes. Luke has Jesus say, “Blessed are the poor,” whereas Matthew records Jesus as saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” They may be somewhat different but both are a challenge.
Matthew’s eight beatitudes (Some say there are nine, but the last two are really connected), speak to a way of living now that will be blessed in the future. We hear, “Blessed are the meek for they shallinherit the earth” and “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” These teachings in many ways point to the future, but I think you would agree that living by these beatitudes in the present moment, we inherit many good things in the here and now. And we do see God in the present moment and hopefully our children will inherit a cleaner and safer earth.
Jesus is dealing with the everyday life struggles we all face from time to time— hunger, mourning, conflict, persecution, and lack of justice. Often these realities hit hardest the least among us. Our world is experiencing hunger, death, war, violence, and conflict and often these situations are in the weakest and poorest nations. Jesus is speaking not only to those sitting and listening to him, but to us as well. I find it interesting that there is one blessing that if lived and exercised comes back to us in a like manner. “Blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy.” My guess is, we have all experienced this reality.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be satisfied.” We hunger for peace on our streets and in foreign conflicts. Gun violence and peace in the war in Ukraine seem out of reach and we are far from being satisfied. But the call by Jesus to “hunger” and “thirst” for them reminds us that our efforts must continue and like food in the present moment, they are lifesaving.
Dr. Jin Young Choi, a local New Testament scholar, has written, “Despite the ethical implications, the Beatitudes are not to be understood as prescriptions for entrance into the kingdom of heaven, but as descriptions of the characteristics and actions appropriate for life in God’s kingdom.” They are giving us a road map for our daily present lives.
Perhaps during the coming week, you may find one of the Beatitudes that touches your heart in a particular way. As a Sister of Mercy, I love the one that promises mercy to those of us who give and share it. You may be “mourning,” you may be aching to see “peace” and, you may have felt or are feeling the pain of “persecution.” You may be “hungering” for many things. My sense is we can relate to these blessings in many ways. But I also think, you can find ways in which our culture, our nation, our society and at times our very selves pursue directions and goals antithetical to these powerful teachings.
That is why it is good from time to time to be reminded of their power and promise.