Grace to you!
We continue our reflections on the Sermon on the Mount.
The Gospel of Matthew 5:17-19 shows how Jesus contrasts his teaching from those of the Scribes and the Pharisees. It is more so regarding the Law (Torah) and the Prophets.
Many of the Rabbis tended to make less severe aspects of God's Commandment regarding sin. Instead, they promoted those aspects that are geared towards social concerns. You may say they paid more attention to issues of social justice (to use our contemporary phrase). Jesus stated he has come to fulfill what God established from the beginning, every aspect of it.
The standards he proposed were shocking to many. "Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 5:19).
Take note that New Testament biblical background shows that the Pharisees were the strictest observers of the Torah and the Prophets. The Scribes were the most knowledgeable about them both. Yet, the Lord didn't propose we follow their standards.
The Lord goes deeper by speaking to how we may be renewed from within, which begins with a change of heart, and faithfulness to God's Law and Word. Later we see how he guarantees this through the gift of his grace.
The Second Beatitude (that is my central theme today) says, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." (Matthew 5:4).
The Greek word used by the Lord Jesus Christ to describe those who mourn is πενθουντες “Penthoutes.” Such are the people, he said, that will receive comfort.
Penthoutes expresses the idea of people who are deeply sorry when they sin against God. And those who feel deep sorrow when they sin against their neighbor. It's equally a disposition of feeling sorrow, deep sorrow, for the sins of the world, or when evil has a field day. It's that kind of sorrow or pain that the saints feel, which motivates them to practice spiritual exercises of fasting, praying, almsgiving, or mortification (self-denials or offerings) for others' salvation. This sort of feeling inspires us not to sit by while evil thrives. It motivates us to do something so that good will reign over sin and evil.
You are indeed blessed if you feel sorrow for sins. The most perfect of it is when the sorrow springs from pure love of God, who is so good to us. We call it, perfect contrition.
To connect well with this promise, may we also see it in the light of awe of the Lord and the proper disposition we should have to receive enduring consolation. The beatitudes, far from being ethical principles, are powerful spiritual dispositions that guarantee blessedness. Though some may sound like a skill or virtue, they are probably not. They are a disposition that makes us God's blessed.
What should be our disposition towards sin and towards keeping God’s commandments? When we falter or see others do the same, how do we feel about it?
You know that a society has lost a sense of divine blessedness when numb to severe adverse effects of sins. In other words, when society treats sin and evil with a nonchalance attitude, it is a road to gradual chaos. It's like constant exposure to violence, making people numb to graphic, violent scenes. Or hate of people because of how they look or their social class, leading to the chaos of racism and classism, and violent outbursts. We shouldn't get so accustomed to sin—personal or social—that we no longer repulse its disastrous consequences.
May God give us the grace to understand the terrible consequences of sins to loathe it for what it is—sin. Amen
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Thursday, Ordinary Time: 1 Kings 18:41-46; Matthew 5:20-26]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.