The Blue Mountains Franciscan Church Sermon preached by Revd. Br Simeon efo on
Sunday 29th January 2017:
FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY. YR A.
Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven . . . “
Father Flannagan was diligently trying to win souls for the kingdom of God. One day he had a fine idea. He would go to the local pub to evangelize the local drunks and bar flies. He walks into the pub and notices one of his flock from the local church he preaches in. “John!” he screams, John! do you want to go to heaven!!!! John answered,” Father Flannagan,, why ,,yes! of course I want to go to heaven.”” Then, get over here behind me now,” says the father. “Patrick!, Father Flannagan screams out again.. “Patrick do you want to go to heaven?” Well father,, yes… yes ,, I do. “Then get over here with us now… so Patrick joined the two men.. Father Flannagan spotted another and said,, ” you! do you want to go to heaven? The third man paused. No answer! Flannagan again asked the man,” you sir! Do you want to go to heaven!! The man paused again and then shouted,” no!” the Father was dumbstruck and asked the same quesion,, What do you mean you DON’T WANT TO GO TO HEAVEN?? The young man then stated, ” no,,not today ,, it seems as if you’ve got a group to go today and I don’t want to go today!!!!
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Beatitudes (Matt. 5:1-12) begin the body of material commonly referred to as the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), the first of five major sections of teachings within the Gospel of Matthew. Carefully structured, all five conclude with the formula “And when Jesus had finished all these sayings.
It may or may not be the case that Matthew used the five books of Moses as a model. Neither is it important to defend or oppose the term “sermon,” traditionally attached to this material. To insist that Jesus delivered all these sayings at one sitting is equally unimportant. In fact, the variety of subjects treated and the fact that Mark and Luke use some of these sayings in other contexts argue rather persuasively against a single audience and a single occasion. But none of these positions rob the material of its meaning or authority.
In reading Matthew’s gospel we need to remember that it was directed primarily at a readership with a Jewish background and in this it differs greatly from Mark. One of Matthew’s aims is to present Jesus as the new Moses, transcending but not putting aside the law given to the Israelites by the first Moses.
And, as the law of Moses is contained in what we have are the first five books of the Bible, so the law or teaching of Jesus is presented uniquely in this gospel by five long discourses.
The first of these is the Sermon on the Mount and it consists mainly of the qualities which are expected of a follower of the new Law and the new Moses, Jesus.
It begins with what we call the Eight Beatitudes. It could be said that these have been greatly under-rated in the life of the Christian churches, Catholic and otherwise. Most people tend to see the centre of Christian living in the Ten Commandments and yet they really belong to the Hebrew Testament, they are part of that Law which the coming of Jesus did not nullify but transcended. They are, of course, still valid as moral guidelines but, in many ways, they fall far short of what is presented by Jesus in the Beatitudes.
The Beatitudes call us to a very different set of values than those of our dog-eat-dog-success-is-everything-get-them-before-they-get-you-bottom-line-based world. We are called, as Zephaniah preaches, “to seek the Lord in all things.”
As a people of faith we are called to focus our lives on the “blessedness” of the Sermon on the Mount: to seek our joy and fulfilment in God above all things. Our “blessedness” cannot be measured by our portfolios, celebrity or intellect, but in our ability to grasp that we exist not in and of ourselves but by and in the love of God.
The “blessed” of the Gospel have embraced a spirit of humble gratitude before the God who gives, nurtures and sustains our lives. The “blessed” seek to respond to such unfathomable love the only way they can: by returning that love to others, God’s children, as a way of returning it to God.
Some people have seen in these Beatitudes a portrait of Jesus himself and certainly they should be the portrait of every Christian and of every Kingdom person. They are the charter people everywhere (and not just Christians) are called to follow. They go far beyond what is demanded of in the Ten Commandments. The Commandments are not so difficult to follow and, in so far as several of them are expressed in the negative (‘Thou shalt not…’), they can be observed by doing nothing! There is no way, however, that people can ever say they observe any Beatitude to the fullest. They always call us to a further and higher level.
Finally, and most important to the reader of Matthew 5:1-12. God’s favour is granted to those whom society regards as the ones left behind: the poor in spirit, the meek, the mourners, the merciful, those hungering for justice, the pure hearted, the makers of peace, those mistreated for the cause of justice. On these Jesus pronounces God’s congratulations, with these God identifies in Jesus, to these comes the Good News of God’s interceding grace.
Image: whatshotn. 2017. Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit Matthew 5:1-13 | whatshotn. [ONLINE] Available at: https://whatshotn.me/. [Accessed 30 January 2017].