Light and Salt

Next Sunday is the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time in Year A. You can read a complete commentary on the Sunday Gospel here.

11 Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. 16 Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. (Mt 5:13-16) Continue reading

Seeing the Kingdom

“Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.” (Luke 6:20)

Almost a quarter of a century ago, I was in the midst of formation to become a lay missioner with Franciscan Mission Service as a prelude to my time in Kenya.  Fr. Joe Nangle, a Franciscan friar, was our speaker that morning.  We had begun day with the Eucharist and the gospel was the same gospel we heard this morning.  “Blessed are you who are poor… for yours is the kingdom of God.”  Fr Joe told us that if he could only have one verse of Sacred Scripture for our formation, this would be it.  Within in were the two great challenges to all Christians, but perhaps especially so for Christians from the affluent countries of the world:  to learn to see the poor and to learn to see the kingdom of God in the world. And then he told us this story. Continue reading

Beatitudes: blessings

Great-CommissionThe Second Stanza – Promises of Reward to the Virtuous

All the beatitudes in Matthew 5:7-10 are best interpreted as promising eschatological rewards to people who exhibit virtuous behavior. The second stanza does not, however, represent a logical departure from the thought that undergirds the first, for the virtues that are rewarded with blessings are ones exercised on behalf of the people mentioned in Stanza One. In other words the people whom Jesus declares blessed in 5:7-10 are those who help to bring to reality the blessings promised to others in 5:3-6. Continue reading

Beatitudes: mourn and meek

Great-CommissionThose who mourn. This is not necessarily the bereaved, or even the penitent. Boring (178-9) notes that at one level Matthew here taps into the deep biblical tradition that one of the characteristics of the true people of God is that they lament the present condition of God’s people and God’s program in the world (see Lamentations; the lament Psalms; etc.). In Isa 61:1-11, on which the beatitudes are based, the community laments the desolation of the holy city. Those who mourn do not resign themselves to the present condition of the world as final, but lament the fact that God’s kingdom has not yet come and that God’s will is not yet done (6:10) ). Continue reading

Beatitudes: structure & stanza

Great-CommissionAltogether there are nine beatitudes in 5:3–12, the ninth (5:11–12) is really an expansion of the eighth (5:10). Some scholars opt for a structure with three sets of three, the first eight exhibit such a tightly knit parallel structure that it is more likely that we should understand them as two sets of four. This is most consistent with Hebraic poetry forms which seem to be the literary background of the Beatitudes. Still there is an internal consistency within each “stanza/verse” as seen in the form of each pronouncement:

 

Continue reading

Beatitudes: their fabric

Great-CommissionThe 4th Sunday (Year A) and All Saints Day includes (a) the setting of the entire discourse and (b) the opening section, universally known as the Beatitudes. Beatitudes are found elsewhere in Matthew (11:6; 13:16; 16:17; 24:46) and more frequently in Luke. They are based on a common form of expression in the poetical books of the Old Testament (e.g. Pss. 1:1; 32:1–2; 40:4; 119:1–2; 128:1), but nowhere in the Old Testament or other Jewish literature is there so long and carefully constructed a series as here. A beatitude (Latin) or makarism (Greek) is a statement in the indicative mood beginning with the adjective makarios, declaring certain people to be in a privileged, fortune circumstance. It is not original to Jesus but occurs frequently in the OT as well as in non-Scriptural Jewish and pagan writings. Used here, the beatitudes reflect the Jewish use and setting: wisdom and prophecy. Continue reading

Beatitudes: context

This coming weekend, the Catholic Church will celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. The readings for that celebration are a departure from the lectionary cycle of the Gospel according to Mark.

The Sermon on the Mount

Great-Commission1 When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 He began to teach them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. 6 Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Continue reading

So…what are your plans?

beatitudes1This weekend the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Feb 2nd) falls on a Sunday – and so we celebrate that event in the life of Christ.  When the Feast falls on Sunday, it replaces the Ordinary Time celebration and the associated Gospel, which happens to be “The Sermon on the Mount.”  The Sermon contains the listing of the Beatitudes and is one of the great discourses in the Gospel according to Matthew.  I thought I would at least provide some food for thought here in the column. Continue reading