A scholarly attempt at an interpretation of Sunday's liturgical readings.

Archive for February, 2017

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Should we take warnings seriously?

When you stop to think about it, we are warned about many things.  Medicine prescriptions tell us the amount to take or problems will follow.  How many times have we seen “No Trespassing” signs?  Or when doing grocery shopping the Nutrition Facts label tells us what good and bad products about the product.

Part of Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 5:1-12) comes across as a warning sign for the good things people should do.  This section we know as the Beatitudes.  It is interesting to note that this particular section begins with Jesus going up a mountain. (Matthew 5:1)  The “mountain” has often been used in the Bible to indicate that something significant was about to take place.  For example, MOUNT Sinai from where Moses delivered the Law to the Israelites, including the ten commandments, was the significant place where God and the Israelites established a mutual covenant.

So we know that Jesus had something important to say.  Namely, while observing the Law there is a shift in perspective from the way things were done to what is now being presented.  Jesus centers on the notion of “attitude” which brings in heart, feelings, and conscience.  A key word in this sermon on the mount is “Blessed,” which in the Greek means “Happy.”  I t seems that the emotional motivation for the action is important for doing what has to be done.  Those pointed out are the following:

POOR IN SPIRIT.  Those who feel unable to help themselves and feel the necessity of God’s help.  In fact, these are the humble.

THOSE WHO MOURN.  Sorrow for our own sins as well as the sins of others.

THE MEEK.  “Gentleness”( not “weakness”)  in not allowing violence or injustice to be done to anyone.

THOSE WHO SEEK RIGHTEOUSNESS.  Those who have  the attitude of maintaining the covenant relationship with God.

THOSE WHO ARE MERCIFUL.  Jesus often displayed mercy in his dealings with others.  He thought more of the individual person than of the perceived absoluteness of the Law.  At least one examples come to mind.  When Jesus’ disciples went through some grain fields on the Sabbath, they stopped to eat.  This raised the ire of some Pharisees who said the laws of the Sabbath forbid that.  Jesus’ response was that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  (Mark 2:23-28)  There is also the case of the woman caught in adultery.  (John 8:2-11)  Perspective!!  Attitude!!

PURE IN HEART.  Means an undivided obedience to God.  The “heart” is the center of human need, thinking, and feeling.

PEACEMAKERS.  Means something “active.”  Quite likely, it means that we are to love our enemies.  (Matthew 5:44-48)

THOSE PERSECUTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS.  “Righteousness” is characterized by Christian practice and confessing Jesus.

What is Jesus asking of us?  The Beatitudes tell us to be humble; to have sorrow for our sins; to be gentle in not allowing injustice to be done;  to maintain a true relationship with God; to be merciful; to have obedience to God; to love my enemies; and to continue to proclaim Jesus to others.

The above won’t be easy, but it will present a major challenge throughout our lives.  Persecution is the warning presented, but the promise of Jesus is our fundamental hope.  (Matthew 5:11-12)

 

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