Shane Hyland, the Leader of Evangelisation at St Joseph’s Regional College presents our Gospel reflections this week and today reads from the Gospel of Matthew (5:1-12) in which Jesus shares the Beatitudes with his disciples, beginning with ‘How happy are the poor in spirit: theirs is the kingdom of heaven…’
Shane says it is easy to skip over the first part of our reading today and to get straight to the words of Jesus and his Beatitudes, however, if we did that we would be missing out on the symbolism of Jesus establishing himself as the new Moses.
Just as Moses went up the mountain to receive the Law from God and then came down to teach it to the Israelites, Jesus walks up a hill and sits down to teach. Jesus doesn’t need to receive anything because his purpose was not to replace the law but to raise it to a higher level, to fulfil it.
Jesus speaks with an authority that is his own and this is recognised by some who hear him speak in the towns and the synagogue, though for the benefit of the people he sits because sitting is the posture of the rabbi in a synagogue who ‘sits’ on the chair of Moses.
But what does it mean to fulfil the law? It means to bring it to perfection, on earth as it is in heaven, and so Jesus lays out a call to discipleship, eight blessings, which taken together form the picture of the perfected kingdom of God.
Jesus was well aware of the two worlds, the world that is and the world to come. The world that is, and still exists is the world of power and domination, consumerism and ego. Whereas the world to come, the world that we, as disciples, are called to bring about is inhabited by people who are poor in spirit, in fact, they are blessed and happy to be that way. To be detached from the material things of the world, people who place all their faith and hope in God.
The kingdom is inhabited by people who are not only poor in spirit but people who are mourners, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and the merciful. All of whom place their trust in God and God alone.
The merciful are called blessed or happy because they place mercy above their rights, knowing that they too must rely on the mercy of God. But it is not easy being a disciple, Jesus gives no comfort to his hearers. They will be persecuted and ridiculed by those who are trapped by the world of domination and power.
It is the same for us today as we talk about being intentional disciples during the season of renewal in our parish. Do we shy away from being labelled as Christians when we work for the kingdom for fear of being mocked or ridiculed? Or do we rejoice, just as the disciples, did when they were found worthy of dishonour on account of the name of Jesus?