Tag Archives: Beatitudes

19 February 2017: Seventh Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Lv 19:1-2, 17-18 Ps 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13 1 Cor 3:16-23 Mt 5:38-48

Called to be holy, called to be perfect

Green_banner_sm During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. The gospel continues Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount discourse. This week’s readings call disciples to holiness by being as perfect as the Father.

In the first reading from Leviticus, God calls Israel to be holy by obeying God’s laws. These laws include attitudes and actions towards one’s fellow Israelites–the neighbor. The Lectionary editors chose this reading because the instruction about holiness matches the second reading and the instruction to love is the basis for today’s gospel.

The second reading continues Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Last week, Paul told the Corinthians that they must hear what the Spirit teaches. This week, Paul addresses the Corinthian’s factions and wisdom-seeking. The Corinthian ekklasia (believing community) is a temple because God’s Spirit lives in the community, making them holy. By dividing the ekklasia into factions, the Corinthians have defiled the temple and endangered their holiness. To help the Corinthians restore their spiritual balance, Paul explains everyone’s place in serving God’s kingdom: the ekklasia leaders serve the ekklasia, who serve Christ, who serves God.

Matthew’s gospel continues Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount discourse. Today Jesus again challenges his disciples to go beyond the Law’s requirements and to become as perfect as their heavenly Father. The reading has three parts:

  • Release the need to retaliate. Hebrew scripture’s law “an eye for an eye” (Ex 21:24) was meant to limit revenge–punishment or restitution should not exceed the injury done. Although the Law granted a wronged person the right to retribution, Jesus’ new law forbids all retaliation. When insulted or dishonored, a disciple must break the cycle of retaliation and not demand what is legally his.
  • Love your enemies. Hebrew scripture contains no command requiring Jews to hate their enemies, but hating enemies is assumed to be just, especially when these foreigners are state or religious enemies. Jesus extends the “love the neighbor” commandment to even the enemy and the persecutor. Jesus teaches that God is Father to all humans, therefore all humans are family and deserve familial love.
  • Be as perfect as the Father. Hebrew scriptures calls Jews “to be holy, just as your God is holy” (first reading). First-century Jews understood holiness as separation–from sin, sinners, and gentiles. Jesus calls his disciples not simply to be holy, but to be perfect “as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Disciples imitate their Father’s perfect love through actions and attitudes: replace anger with love and forgiveness; replace selfish desire with love; replace honor/shame with forgiveness and love; replace deceit with plain-spoken truth, replace retaliation with generosity, replace hate with love.

Today’s readings ask RCIA participants and the believing community to recognize that simple observance of a law does not produce love. Rules don’t transform people, but encountering love does. Disciples must cultivate attitudes and actions that transform them and all who encounter them. Jesus calls us to go beyond conformity to the Law and to imitate the Father’s perfect love. Every day we have the opportunity to transform anger, selfishness, deceit, retaliation, and hate into perfect love. This is how we change the world and ourselves. Doesn’t the world need transforming? Don’t we?

—Terence Sherlock

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5 February 2017: Fifth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Is 58:7-10 Ps 112:4-5, 6-7, 8-9 1 Cor 2:1-5 Mt 5:13-16

Tasting and seeing discipleship

Green_banner_smDuring Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. The gospel continues Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount discourse. This week’s readings focus on the results of discipleship.

In the first reading the prophet Isaiah warns that fasting alone does not change a person or create a just world. In Hebrew scripture, the prophets call the Jewish people to be “a light to the nations.” The Jewish people’s metanoia (change of mind/heart) and resulting social actions become a light that will draw the gentiles to God. Jesus makes a similar point about disciples in today’s gospel.

The second reading continues Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Last week, Paul targeted the Corinthian’s exclusivity: they think too highly of themselves. This week, Paul tells the Corinthians to search for something wiser than human wisdom. God’s mysterious wisdom is unavailable to worldly-wisdom seekers. God’s mystery is known only to God; it is God’s plan of salvation and involves Jesus and the cross. Paul doesn’t appeal to philosophy, but rather the truth of God’s Spirit and God’s power.

Matthew’s gospel continues Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount discourse. Today Jesus gives two parables about discipleship. When living the beatitudes (Jesus’ new law), disciples become salt and light.

  • Salt: The ancient world used salt to season and to preserve food. Just as salt changes the taste of food, a disciple’s life changes the world. That is, a disciple who is poor in spirit, mourns evil, practices humility, hungers after justice, shows mercy, single-mindedly seeks God, makes peace, and endures persecution becomes a living example of God’s kingdom.
  • Light: In Hebrew scripture, the prophets call the Jewish people to be “a light to the nations” (Is 60:1-3, Bar 4:2); in today’s first reading (Is 58:7-10), the Lord tells the returning exiles to care for others so “your light will break like the dawn” and “the light shall rise from you.” Jesus’ parable is in this prophetic tradition: now his disciples are a light to the nations. As a lamp reveals everything it shines on, so a disciple’s life becomes a beacon or example to everyone.

By adding the parables of salt and light at the end of the beatitudes, Matthew provides a “call to action” for disciples. Discipleship is not simply a relationship between Jesus and a disciple, but a relationship that extends from the disciple to the world. Through the disciple’s own actions and attitudes, the world experiences Jesus’ and the Father’s love.

Today’s readings ask RCIA participants and the believing community to consider how our lives reflect discipleship. Do our actions and attitudes align with the beatitudes? Do our daily interactions leave others seasoned or soured? Do our words and examples enlighten or darken others’ lives?

—Terence Sherlock

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29 January 2017: Fourth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Zep 2:3; 3:12-13 Ps 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10 1 Cor 1:26-31 Mt 5:1-12a

Blessed are you?

Green_banner_sm During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. Beginning this week and for the next four weeks, the gospel follows Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount discourse. This week’s readings focus on the beatitudes.

In the first reading, the prophet Zephaniah calls the Judeans to conversion to avoid the coming judgement–“the day of the Lord.” He addresses the people as anawim (AHN-ah-vim)–a Hebrew word meaning “the poor”–who depend completely on God for their lives. The Lectionary editors pair Zephaniah’s message to the anawim with Jesus’ message to the poor in spirit to contrast the coming “day of the Lord” with the coming “kingdom of God.”

The second reading continues Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Last week, Paul admonished the Corinthians for their disunity and quarrels. This week, Paul addresses the root cause of their exclusivity: they think too highly of themselves. Paul reminds the Corinthians that, by human standards, other people would judge them as not too smart, powerful, or classy. God chooses (calls) slow, powerless, nobodies that everyone despises to shame the world’s wise, powerful, top-class people. Paul suggests they confine their boasting to “boasting in the Lord”–recognizing that all humans live only because of God’s grace and goodness.

Matthew’s gospel begins Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount discourse. Today Jesus teaches his disciples and the crowds his new law: the beatitudes.

  • What is a beatitude? Beatitudes are a common literary form in Egyptian, Hebrew, Greek, and other ancient writings. The Greek word μακάριος (mah-KAH-ree-ohs) means “blessed,” “happy,” or “fortunate,” and addresses someone who is to be praised or congratulated for being in a privileged position. In Jewish tradition, a beatitude commended someone who choose a particular path in life, or promised future consolation to someone currently experiencing affliction.
  • What do the beatitudes mean? Jesus addresses his beatitudes to his disciples. He calls disciples to serve and to model God’s kingdom in this world. Worldly kingdoms (social, business, political) are in conflict with one another and with God’s kingdom. Jesus tells his disciples to give up attachments to worldly kingdoms and to align themselves with God’s kingdom. They must take on actions and attitudes–being poor in spirit, mourning evil, practicing humility, hungering after justice, showing mercy, single-mindedly seeking God, making peace, enduring persecution–that Jesus himself lives.

Today’s readings ask RCIA participants and the believing community to consider how our lives reflect God’s kingdom. Like the Judeans, we need Zephaniah’s message of continuing conversion. Like the Corinthians, we need Paul’s reminder that God is in charge, not us. As disciples, we need to walk Jesus’ path to bring the kingdom. Can we let go of our addictions to earthly wisdom, power, and status? Can we put down some of the worldly things we think we need–pride, revenge, fear–to pick up some of Jesus’ own attitudes and actions?

—Terence Sherlock

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