1 Jesus saw the crowds and went up a hill, where he sat down. His disciples gathered round him,
2 and he began to teach them:
3 “Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor; the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them!
4 Happy are those who mourn; God will comfort them!
5 Happy are those who are humble; they will receive what God has promised
6 Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully!
7 Happy are those who are merciful to others; God will be merciful to them!
8 Happy are the pure in heart; they will see God!
9Happy are those who work for peace; God will call them his children!
10 Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires; the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them!
11 Happy are you when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kinds of evil lies against you because you are my followers.
12 Be happy and glad, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven. This is how the prophets who lived before you were persecuted.”
Other readings: Zeph 2:3, 3:12-13; Ps 146:7-10; 1 Cor 1:26-31
Scholars believe that Mark’s Gospel was written before the other two synoptic Gospels, enabling Matthew and Luke to draw on his material when writing their own accounts.
But Matthew and Luke also rely on other sources, especially concerning the teaching of Jesus. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus’s teaching is drawn together from different times and places and presented in five extensive teaching sections. Today’s passage, often referred to as the Beatitudes, marks the beginning of the first of these: the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:27).
Jesus’s teaching centres on what it means to live under God’s kingship on earth. So a clue to help us understand this passage appears in the prayer Jesus teaches his disciples in Matthew 6:10: “May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Jesus’s ministry is to bring God’s rule to earth. God’s kingdom is very different from worldly priorities and values. The worldly view is that money, success and power are good news. But here Jesus teaches that the people who are truly on the right course are those who are dependent on God and are seeking his priorities for their lives.
The word translated as “happy” could also be translated as “congratulations”. These are attitudes rather than moral principles. So Jesus says that if you have these attitudes – if you are humble, show mercy, are pure, work for peace, are prepared to obey God even if this involves persecution, recognise your need for God, allow God to comfort you and your greatest aim is to please God – you are lining yourself up with God’s kingdom.
Each of the Beatitudes is challenging. Which do you find most challenging and why? Which of the Beatitudes seems most achievable to you and why? What difference would it make to our world if all Christians demonstrated these attitudes in their lives?
Choose just one of these Beatitudes and talk to Jesus about it. Ask him for the grace to be able to give God’s ways more priority in your life. Remember God sends the Holy Spirit to help us live for him.
Last week we read how the Apostles had to leave their everyday lives behind them so that they could learn how to live and minister in God’s kingdom. Jesus has given us the Beatitudes to enable us to do the same.
Draw apart from your busy life for a little while every day this week and allow God to replenish you so that you can live out the Beatitudes more faithfully.
Consider each of the rewards and promises God makes to those who have these attitudes. Reflect on just how wonderful and valuable they are.
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