The Beatitudes from Matthew 5
Today Barb read section from the gospel of Matthew, called Beatitudes, found in The Sermon on the Mount, probably one of the most well known texts of the New Testament. Matthew places them near the beginning of his account of Jesus’ public ministry, though we don’t know if they actually were first. They are surely appropriate for the beginning of his preaching ministry because each beatitude describes an action or a life situation that is rewarded by God. The institutional church has always emphasized being rewarded by God, especially doing acts that get us to heaven. With the Roman Catholic Women Priests, not so much for this kind of emphasis on rewards and the hereafter, since no one has gone there and come back to give us an eye witness account of what to expect.
The beatitudes provide guides for a life of justice, love, compassion and many other qualities that help us to live a decent life for ourselves, our family and friends, and even for strangers as well as all of creation. Beatitudes encourage a way of life for day to day living. Through the beatitudes, Jesus calls us to be actively involved in day-to-day living that makes a difference for humanity. It’s not about knowing facts (important as they are), it’s about our relationship with God, others and creation around us.
Throughout the ages since the time of Jesus, we’ve heard stories about numerous saints whose lives depict heroic as well as humble examples of daily living. One humble saint whose feast was this past week, was St. Angela Merici, who in 1536 at the age of 28 in Italy, started the Ursuline Order. The order is dedicated to the Christian education of girls, and it was the first women’s teaching order in the church. She was known for her individual attention and gentleness with the girls and their families. She was a woman with foresight and courage.
I’d say that Angela Merici lived the beatitudes.
Today let’s look for current examples of living the beatitudes. I have a creative activity planned for us to accomplish this. It won’t be a scary activity like the last time I preached about beatitudes.
Anyone remember that day? I explained that beatitude might mean to Be an attitude, to live the attitude you want to be. I asked everyone in small groups to create an original beatitude. There were multiple scared faces as I looked around, but you did it. Then, transformation; the beatitudes you created were fabulous, with smiles on faces around the room & on zoom, proud of the beatitudes that you created.
Today let’s do something easier. Please think about people who have lived or are still living the beatitudes. They are not declared saints in the church like Angela Merici; they are people who lived or are living their lives to the best of their abilities like you and me. Please feel free to share an example from your own life; or someone in your family; or a co-worker; people you know or have heard about.
We’ll walk through just 4 of the 9 beatitudes that Matthew recorded, to see if there is someone you can think of who lived or is living that beatitude and what they did or do to exemplify it.
I’ll read the beatitude; we’ll take a few moments of silence for thinking; when I ask for volunteers to share, perhaps raise your hand so I can watch both zoomies and our in-person people for volunteers.
Wait for the microphone if you are here in the room, so zoomies can hear your example. We’ll share just only a few examples for each beatitude so this session doesn’t last all evening. Please keep your examples brief. (Cathy provides mic) Okay, are we ready?
Here is the first beatitude from Matthew.
- Blessed are the poor in spirit. (e.g. ourSpanish friends in the trailer park)
- Blessed are those who mourn.
- Blessed are the meek. I looked up the word “meek” and found 39 definitions for it. It’s not a common word in our lives. Let’s consider these: patient, unassuming, gentle, persevering.
- (e.g. man w/folded$100 every month to waitress)
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
- Blessed are the merciful.
- Blessed are the pure in heart.
- Blessed are the peacemakers. (e.g. moms and dads and teachers)
- Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
- (tough one?) Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil falsely on my account.
Jesus used relatable stories in the language of the people of his day to spread the good news that he was there for them, that he cared about them, that he especially cared about those who were poor in spirit, who were peacemakers, who were merciful, and so on. So too today, we communicated Jesus’ good news in images, stories and words that people understand. Small & big acts of kindness and service are how beatitudes flourish in own lives and in the lives of ordinary people.
People just like you and me who practice the beatitudes, day by day.
At the end of mass today in the closing song, we’ll have one more chance to reflect upon how the beatitudes enhance our lives. We’ll hear these words from Bernadette Farrell’ song:
“God has chosen me”, to birth a new kingdom on earth”.
Yes, God is truly near to us in our daily activities.
Homily shared on Saturday, 28 January 2023, by Rev. Katherine Elsner.