Sermon on the Mount

01-29-2023Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

This weekend we hear the most famous “sermon” of Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount. This is often quoted as the most inspirational talk that Jesus gave. The Gospel writer Matthew in a sense uses this talk as the first sermon which Jesus offered. In his Gospel Matthew uses an image of Jesus as the Great Moses and thus he has Jesus give a great talk on a mountainside. Moses delivered the Ten Commandments from a mountainside and in Matthew, Jesus delivers His Beatitudes from a mountainside. The following four weeks of readings from the Gospel of Matthew are actually a continuation of the Great Sermon on the Mount. These coming four weeks are in a various sense an explanation of the Great Sermon. Sometimes a speech which is eloquent and brief needs to be explained by many other small speeches.

Our first reading is from a book of the Old Testament which is not often referred to or read. The prophet Zephaniah had to deliver bad news to the Jewish people. He had to tell them that they were in serious trouble. He did, however often consolation and comfort, but he also told them to seek the Lord and in addition justice and humility. He told them that they are the faithful remnant (anawin in Hebrew) and that they would be the beginning of a new community of faithful people.

The “humble” of Zephaniah resonates and connects to the “Blessed” of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In this dramatic scene in Matthew we learn that Jesus is the bringer of the new law, Jesus brought new rules for life for the Jews. Jesus spoke to His disciples and offered to them the qualities that make for blessedness, or beatitude. These blessings which Jesus announced can makes us similar to “the faithful remnant” of Zephaniah.

In this Great Sermon Jesus addressed his talk to the majority of people of then, the poor and the meek. Life was different then and a person did not get to change their status in life. There was no such thing as upward mobility. The poor was always poor; the rich, rich. Thus Jesus spoke to the quality of one’s being. Notice He did not praise the poor nor did He condemn the rich. He spoke of the dignity of the human person and how to be a faithful people of God. Everyone from the powerful to the powerless was of equal value before God. In fact, they were all blessed.

Although we meet many people who have an inflated sense of themselves, it is actual quite difficult for any of us to have the same high sense of ourselves that God has for us. We must always remember that Jesus sees each one of us as the perfect candidate for “Blessedness”. This issue for us is: are we willing to accept this view of our God and grow in blessedness.