Beatitudes: promises

sermon-on-the-mount7 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.

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: reversal

sermon-on-the-mount1 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.

Powell writes: “All four of the beatitudes in the first stanza may reasonably be interpreted as promising eschatological reversals to those who are unfortunate, and some of the beatitudes in this stanza can be reasonably interpreted only in this way” (122). With this approach, these are not virtues that one should aspire to, but they are circumstances in which people find themselves. Continue reading

Beatitudes: fabric and setting

sermon-on-the-mountThe 4th Sunday (Year A) 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. Continue reading

Beatitudes: context

sermon-on-the-mount1 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. (Matthew 5:1-12) Continue reading