He Went up the Mountain
The Beatitudes are front and center in the liturgy today. Jesus goes up the mountain – just as Moses went up the mountain to receive the original Law, a short part of which are the 10 Commandments. Matthew’s positioning of this teaching as taking place on the mountain makes it clear that this is the new law which Jesus is bringing to all right from the beginning. (Mt 5:1-12a) It’s not given to him by God, as the Law was given to Moses. He is the one teaching them.
Yet what Jesus is teaching is not entirely new. The prophets long before the time of Jesus called the ordinary people, the humble of the earth, to follow God’s law, seeking justice and humility, speaking the truth, living in peace, and taking refuge in the name, the power, of the Lord. Jesus too speaks of the humble, ordinary folks of the earth. It’s not the rich and powerful who will make up the kingdom of heaven or make it a reality on Earth. It’s those who are not ambitious for power and fame but who are hungry for righteousness, for doing what is right and good rather than what might be more profitable. It’s those who are merciful and look at the world with pure hearts, those who work for peace and who mourn the losses caused by greed or ambition.
This is the new law Jesus brings to us, laid out right near the beginning of his public life, shortly after the call of his first disciples. Yet it’s not a law that will be easy to accept or to live by. He speaks clearly of persecution, insults, and evil worked against those who will follow this law. Still, the reward for faithfulness is the kingdom of heaven, a kingdom in which their hunger for justice will be satisfied, they will experience mercy and be comforted. They will be known as children of God. Not a bad outcome, all in all.
Easy to live this way? No. Not at all. Does it make sense in everyday life? No, not really. Yet it’s the foolish who live as he teaches who will show the way to life. It’s only through the grace, the help of God, that we can live this new way.
We have been called and have received an amazing gift, to live in the Lord and by the wisdom he brought to that mountainside. The kingdom begins as we live as he has called us to live, following the instructions he gave so long ago.
The Beatitudes are not the entire teaching from Jesus on that day on the mountain. As was the case with the original Law given on Mt. Sinai, there is much more that Jesus taught his disciples that day. We’ll be hearing more of this right into the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Here we go on the journey. Much to see and learn as we travel along the way with Jesus.
Readings for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A