32nd Sunday OT (A)
November 10, 2017
Humanity’s vocation to caring for the environment
November 10, 2017

The way of the Beatitudes

And when he was seated the disciples came to him

The Churchs Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy ran from December 8, 2015, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, to November 20, 2016, the Feast of Christ the King. Fr Gabriel Julien reexamines Mercy in this three-part series.

Because we live in a world that is often marred with violence, impatience, and we sometimes deal with others in an unforgiving and unsympathetic manner, I think it is meaningful to reflect on the theme: Mercy. This series of articles is written to help the faithful to appreciate more fully, the compassion of God. It tries to explore in great detail the true essence of mercy as narrated in the fifth Beatitude according Matthew 5:7, Blessed are the merciful, they shall have mercy shown them.

The Beatitudes

  1. Seeing the crowds, he went onto the mountain. And when he was seated his disciples came to him.
  2. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:
  3. How blessed are the poor in spirit: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
  4. Blessed are the gentle: they shall have the earth as inheritance.
  5. Blessed are those who mourn: they shall be comforted.
  6. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for uprightness: they shall have their fill.
  7. Blessed are the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them.
  8. Blessed are the pure in heart: they shall see God.
  9. Blessed are the peacemakers: they shall be recognised as children of God.
  10. Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
  11. Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you falsely on my account.
  12. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you. (Mt 5: 1–12), The New Jerusalem Bible: Reader’s Edition (1990).

He was seated

In the times of Jesus, the Jewish rabbi frequently conversed with his disciples while walking along the road, or in the City Square, Barclay (1997)*. Following this tradition, it was not uncommon to see Jesus teaching His disciples in a similar fashion. However, when teaching in an official capacity, the Jewish rabbi usually sat down. This was the posture he assumed when making official teachings.

Matthew gives this status to the Beatitudes when he clearly notes that Jesus sat down. Thus, Matthew wants to inform his audience that the teaching of Jesus about the Beatitudes is not casual. It is official. In fact, it is the very essence of what Jesus came to say and proclaim, Barclay (1997).

Having examined the significance of the posture of the Jewish rabbi, we realise that the Beatitudes are of paramount importance. Because they are official teachings, it is imperative we follow them in order to attain eternal salvation.

He began to speak

Barclay (1997) states that his phrase does not simply mean He said or He spoke. It has several important overtones and implications. According to Barclay (1997) it is used regularly to introduce any significant, grave, and important utterance. In addition, it is used for the utterance of an oracle, Barclay (1997). For example, in Acts 8: 35, Philip explained the meaning of sacred scripture to an Ethiopian eunuch.

In making his delivery, Philip was actually giving the eunuch an authoritative teaching concerning the message of scripture regarding Jesus. Similarly, in Acts 10: 34, Peter gave a very impressive speech after the conversion of the Roman Centurion, Cornelius. In that particular episode, Peter expanded the epoch-making discovery that the Gospel was for all, even the Gentiles.

Thus, this phrase: “He began to speak”, is considered the phrase of the great moment. “He began to speak,” is used to indicate that there is no compromising of the truth, to indicate also that there is no fear in speaking the truth, Barclay (1997).  “He began to speak”, is also used to reveal the entire truth, without any reservation.

Blessed

Often the word “blessed” is used to interpret “the divine bliss” or “happy” which is showered upon people who follow God. Bliss means the blessedness of God and it is a complete reversal of the standard of the world. Thus, the terminology: blessed are the poor, blessed are the sorrowful, blessed are the hungry, the thirsty and the persecuted, reflects startling contradictions with the standards of the world.

Barclay (1997) further states that “blessed” is not a statement or a prophecy of what is going to occur neither does it exclude the eschatological bliss with God, but state that even now we can experience this bliss as part of our Christian life. The way of the Beatitudes is the only way to inherit true bliss and happiness.

* Barclay, W. (1997) The Daily Study Bible: The Gospel According to Matthew. Great Britain: The Saint Andrew Press.

Next week: Mercy in the Old Testament