Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth, who have observed his law; seek justice, seek humility; perhaps you may be sheltered on the day of the Lord's anger. But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord; the remnant of Israel. They shall do no wrong and speak no lies; nor shall there be found in their mouths a deceitful tongue; they shall pasture and couch their flocks with none to disturb them.(P) The word of the Lord.
The Lord keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets captives free. (R)
The Lord gives sight to the blind; the Lord raises up those who were bowed down. The Lord loves the just; the Lord protects strangers. (R)
The fatherless and the widow the Lord sustains, but the way of the wicked he thwarts. The Lord shall reign forever; your God, O Zion, through all generations. Alleluia. (R)
Consider your town calling, brothers. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God. It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, so that, as it is written, "Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord." - The word of the Lord.(P) The word of the Lord.
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
Last week we read from the gospel of Matthew that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of the prophet Isaiah when He moved from his home town Nazareth to Capernaum on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in the land that belonged to the tribes of Israel, Zebulun and Naphtali, and, he began to preach a message of repentance because they were "in darkness" and "in the shadow of death", meaning they had no knowledge of God and were in deep distress. Then we read about Jesus' calling of a few fishermen to be his disciples and his preaching and healing in the surrounding villages, Matthew (4:4-17).
Today we start to read the so-called "Sermon on the Mount", and will continue to do so for several weeks to come. The sermon is a collection of sayings and teachings that Jesus delivered from a mountain overlooking the Sea of Galilee. The first part of the Sermon is known as the "Beatitudes". The Beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus' preaching and, they contain eight declarations of blessedness. The word "beatitude" comes from the Latin word "beatitudo" meaning "blessed". Interesting enough, some English versions of the Bible use the word "happy" in place of the word "blessed", which is derived from the Greek word "makarios".
Even though the word "happy" to some extent conveys the same meaning "blessedness" is a deeper word than "happiness" for while happiness may be entirely human, blessedness has the divine element in it. Therefore, the word "blessed" Jesus used in the Sermon on the Mount refers to the divine reward promised to those whose life and wills are in harmony with the divine will. In the case of the followers of Jesus Christ, they must keep His commandments and live in harmony with the standards of His gospel.
What are the beatitudes and what do they teach us?
The first beatitude states, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." The poor in the Bible does not simply mean poor or those who have not much food or wealth or possessions, but those who in their need turn to God. So "poor in spirit" are those who humble themselves before God and acknowledge their dependence on God. Truly humble people are aware of sinfulness and understand their limitations. They also recognize their gifts and strengths and use them to benefit others and glorify God. They are blessed because of their humility and their reward is the kingdom of heaven.
The second beatitude reads, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." In the Bible, "those who mourn" does not only refer to those in pain and are grieving over some loss, often the death of a loved one, but it also refers to those who feel a deep sorrow for the evils and injustices in the world; those who mourn do not do so just for their own pain and afflictions but also for the sufferings of others in the world. They are blessed because of their solidarity and concern for others and their reward is, in times of suffering, they will be comforted by God.
The third beatitude is, "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land." In the Bible, "meekness" means a spirit of gentleness and self-control. Meekness is humility toward God and toward others. The meek are not easily given to violence and vengeance. This does not mean that they are weak or ineffective in life. We see this quality in godly people both in the Old and New Testaments - Abraham, Job, Joseph, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Jesus, Stephen and Paul. There are many saints, for example, Francis de Sales, Vincent de Paul, known for their gentleness, patience, mildness and meekness. They are blessed for their meekness and, they will possess or inherit the land as their reward. "Land" here should not be interpreted as physical land but rather a place of security and peace, a place of rest where there is no danger, turmoil, grief or strife. However, it may include the possession of physical land, like the land of Israel in the Old Testament times and the land of Canaan promised to Abraham.
The fourth beatitude says, "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied." "Righteousness" means "to have a right relationship with God and others". When we are hungry, all we think about is food. When we are thirsty, all we think about is water. Likewise, some people yearn or are genuinely hungry and thirsty for a right relationship with God, with their family, with their friends, and their community. Righteousness is as vital to their spiritual life as food and water are to their physical life. They are blessed for their desire to be right with God and with others and, are rewarded with genuine contentment or satisfaction in life.
The fifth beatitude is, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." "Mercy" here includes both the forgiveness offered to an offender or a sinner and the compassion shown toward the suffering and the needy. They offer mercy to others because they know that they themselves need the mercy of others for their own inadequacies, dependence, weaknesses and incompleteness. They are blessed for healing wounds and showing kindness to others and are in return rewarded with the mercy of God and others. Remember, in the Our Father Prayer, Jesus teaches us that we must have already forgiven those who sinned against us before we seek His forgiveness.
The sixth beatitude says, "Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God." The "heart" is used in the Bible for the will and the choices we make. So this beatitude refers to people with both inner purity and singleness of mind. To be pure in heart or clean of heart means that the decisions one makes, the desires one has, the thoughts and intentions of the will are untarnished by sin, and their will is determined to please God. From the pure heart only good things, acts of love and mercy come. People pure in heart desire righteousness and justice and they make decisions that please God. Such people are blessed and, their reward is incredible. Jesus says that they would see God. The Bible says that no one has ever seen God, Exodus (33:18-23), 1 Timothy, (6:16). Jesus says, "No one has ever seen God; it is the only son, who is close to the Fathers' heart, who has made him known", John (1:18). In the Bible, "Seeing God" means being allowed into God's presence, being awestruck by His glory and being comforted by His grace. Simeon and Anna are two powerful examples of people pure in heart, Luke (2:22-40), who got to see Baby Jesus and know beyond a doubt that He was indeed the Messiah and the Son of God.
The seventh beatitude states, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God." Saint Paul tells us that first and foremost, Jesus died to "reconcile the world" to God and has "entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation", and therefore Paul implores on Christ's behalf that we may be "reconciled to God", Corinthians (5:18-20). So, our work for peace must start with our reconciliation with God and then go on to reconcile with others. That is to say, we must first seek peace with God. When our conscience is clear and our heart is free of sin, we are at peace with God. When we repent of our sins and turn to God through Jesus Christ, we have peace with God.
Thus, the peacemakers are those who experience the peace of God, Philippians (4:7) because they are at peace, Romans (5:1) with the God of peace, Philippians (4:9), Hebrews (13:20) through the Prince of peace, Isaiah (9:6), who, indeed, made peace between God and mankind by the blood of the cross, Colossians (1:20); Ephesians (2:14), and who therefore seek to live at peace with all others, Romans (12:18) and proclaim the gospel of peace, Ephesians (6:15) so that others might have joy and peace in believing, Romans (15:13). They are blessed for their efforts to bring peace and, are rewarded with the highest status or title that God chooses to give them "sons" or "children of God".
The eighth beatitude is, "Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." This beatitude is not simply for all who suffer persecution and torture or cruelty of any kind in our daily life. God, as the righteous judge of the earth, will deal with that as well. It is rather for the disciples of Jesus Christ. The last verse clarifies that Jesus is directly addressing his disciples. He said that those who identify themselves with Him, carry His name, and proclaim the good news despite opposition, should "rejoice and be glad" for their reward will be great in heaven. It means that because of the honor bestowed upon them, the glory they bring to Christ and His cause, by willingly and cheerfully suffering for it; because of the glory and happiness that follow upon their sufferings, God will impart the highest reward to them. Positively, "reward" refers to eternal life. And the greatest joy of heaven will be seeing God face to face, Revelation (22:4) and the time "we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is", 1 John (3:2).
What is the message for us?
For a life of everlasting blessedness or happiness let us not be content with anything ess than living out the Beatitudes to their fullness. In other words, let us seek humility, compassion, gentleness, self-control, right relationships, mercy, a pure heart, peace and willingness to suffer and die for Jesus Christ so that the everlasting blessedness or happiness may be ours. Let us also constantly beseech our God to send upon us His Holy Spirit so that we may have the courage and strength to practice the virtues outlined in the Beatitudes and experience internal joy, peace, and as well the rewards promised by Jesus Christ.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!