Bible scholars draw parallels between Jesus on the hillside near Lake Galilee, and Moses a thousand years before him on Mt Sinai. Moses gives the people the Law, summarised by the Ten Commandments. Jesus gives his people the Sermon the Mount, summarised by the Beatitudes. This is not the only parallel between Jesus and the history of the ancient People of God. Just as there were 12 tribes of Israel, so there were 12 disciples. Jesus is leading a movement, creating a people who would answer his challenge to be light, to be leaven, to be salt for the world.
Jesus intends those who answer his call to be a creative presence for love. This new people is to be found among all races and classes and nations. They are to help others discover God’s love. They are to challenge the world to live by God’s standards of justice and integrity. Today we call this people the Church. It is a wonderful privilege, to be part of the people who share this calling and who through faith and baptism, are the body of Christ.
On the other hand, we know our frailties only too well. Who are we, to hold ourselves up as paragons of virtue? Which brings us back to the Beatitudes that we hear today (Mt 5.1-12). They are deliberate challenges by Jesus, running against the spirit of his times. They also challenge our times with their worship of power and self-aggrandizement. But this is exactly where we find our hope. Read the Beatitudes again and you will find that it is the ordinary, struggling people who can find God in the very middle of their lives. Jesus gives us hope and strength by helping us see our vocation in terms of communion with God.
The poor in spirit are blessed because they seek to live in such a way that the material things of life do not control them. This spirit of detachment, of seeing things in true proportion, is a lifetime’s journey in which we strive to see all things in relation to God. Those who are gentle are blessed, because a peaceable spirit creates a peaceable world and creates new opportunities for human flourishing. Even those who mourn will find a blessing, because in their grief a hand will hold theirs to comfort them, a hand that bears the mark of a nail. Those who long for what is right and good will find fulfilment, because like the peacemakers, they will be creating new opportunities and opening doors to others. Those who cling to Christ in the face of scepticism and mockery, shall have a great reward. Jesus is calling us to engage with life in all its reality. The beatitudes are not achievements but gifts, given by God to those who ask to know the right way forward day by day, be blessed with the grace and courage to follow this way.