Grace to you!
For the next seventeen days, our daily reflections will center on the Sermon on the Mount. Some background information to contextualize the following reflections would do.
Probably, you are aware that the Sermon on the Mount isn’t simply The Eight Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are a small fraction of it.
Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount to his followers while he was seated on the rocky hill by the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee; what has been called Mount of Beatitudes. Those teachings are recorded in the Gospel of Matthew chapters five to seven, verse 29. Beautiful teachings.
Some background information: Jesus had come to Galilee after the baptism at the River Jordan. He had performed some miracles of healing; and people, for various reasons, have already started to follow him. As one would anticipate, many were curious; they wanted to know who he was and what message he brings.
During the time of Jesus, when a new figure appeared with unique skills, especially like a teacher, people came to hear him and know to which tradition he belonged. The popular teachers were called the Rabbis.
The Rabbis were respected in many Jewish circles as “authentic interpretations” of the Torah. Many of such interpretations are recorded in the Talmud as well as the Mishnah.
The Rabbis’ teaching style was like a mentor to a mentee. They try to teach the students, their disciples (Talmid), using a unique interpretative methodology known as the Midrash.
The method was mainly through an oral technique, which are more or less easy-to-remember rhythmic sentences and parallelism. The followers of the Rabbi learn from them, and become, after their mentorship, transmitters of the same tradition they share with others.
Similarly, many times the Rabbis teach while seated. So, Jesus, coming into Galilee, and seeing more crowds follow him, seized the opportunity to teach. He sat (like a typical Rabbi), opened his mouth as an “oracle” about to declare some truths, and began to teach.
These imageries are important. When a Rabbi wants to teach something very crucial, he sits. The seating isn’t a sign of fatigue but of authority. This is actually the practice in many cultures. In Africa, where I come from, the elder regarded as a “wise man” sits to teach.
I understand this isn’t the case in modern western cultures, but it is important to recognize why Jesus sat. The teachings were very crucial for our salvation.
You may see a parallel to this practice in the Church’s use of the ecclesiastical concept ex-cathedral. “Ex-cathedral” means “from the seat.” When the Pope wants to define a doctrine, he does so ex-cathedral.
In line with this background information, I will continue to explore the beautiful teachings of the Sermon on the Mount tomorrow, beginning with the first Beatitude.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Monday, June 6, 2016, Ordinary Time: 1 Kings 17:1-6; Matthew 5:1-12]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.