To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Cor 1:1-7; Mt 5:1-12
Beginning today, the gospel reading will be from the Gospel of Matthew except on feasts or special occasions. The Church begins from Chapter 5 of Matthew. The three chapters beginning from 5,1 and ending at 7,29 contain one of the most famous discourses of Matthew known as “The Sermon on the Mount”.
Since we will be reading this Sermon for almost three whole weeks on weekdays, it is important to have some background of what the Sermon is about.
The first point that we note is that this is the first of the five great discourses in the Gospel of Matthew. Each of these five ends with the phrase, “and when Jesus had finished…” (7,28; 11,1; 13,53; 19,1; 26,1). It begins by showing Jesus as a Rabbi teaching ex-cathedra (5,1) and ends by showing Jesus as the Messianic prophet addressing the crowds (7,28).
The second point that must be kept in mind is that the Sermon is a composition of Matthew. An analysis of similar texts in the Gospels of Mark and Luke indicate that many verses found here in Matthew are found in Mark and Luke in different contexts. This does not mean that Jesus did not say these words. It means that Matthew has put them together in this manner.
The third point is the theme, which will determine how one will interpret the Sermon as a whole. Most are agreed that the theme of the Sermon is found in 5,17-20, in which Jesus speaks about having come not to abolish but to fulfil the Law and Prophets, and issues a challenge to those listening to let their “righteousness” be greater than that of the scribes and Pharisees in order to enter the kingdom.
Today’s text contains what is commonly known as the “Introduction” to the Sermon and contains the Beatitudes, which are the communication of a blessing. The mountain is a “theological topos” in the Gospel of Matthew (Luke’s Sermon is from “a level place cf Lk 6,17) and therefore means much more than simply a geographical location. Matthew does not name the mountain, but by choosing it as the place from where Jesus delivers the Sermon, he probably wants to portray Jesus as the New Moses delivering the New Law from a New Mountain. While Jesus in the Gospel of Luke “stands” and delivers the Sermon (Lk 617), in Matthew, Jesus sits down. This is the posture that the Jewish Rabbis adopted when communicating a teaching of importance or connected with the Law. In Luke the crowd is addressed from the beginning of the Sermon and addressed directly, “Blessed are you poor…” (Lk 6,20), but in Matthew, it is the “disciples” who come to Jesus and whom he begins to teach. The address is indirect, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (5,3). While Luke has four beatitudes with four corresponding “Woes”; Matthew has seven plus an additional beatitude, with no corresponding woes. The reason why the “eight” is called an additional beatitude is because the first and the seventh both end with the phrase “theirs is the kingdom of heaven” forming what is known as an inclusion. Beatitude is an expression of congratulations, which recognises an existing state of happiness. While the rewards described in the first and seventh beatitudes are in the present tense, they are in the future tense in the other five beatitudes. The sense is that it is God himself who will do all of this for them. By choosing to bless the disadvantaged, the Matthean Jesus indicates the thrust of his mission, which is primarily a mission to the disadvantaged.