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 theme would do.
Probably, you are aware that the Sermon on the Mount isn’t simply The Eight Beatitudes. The Eight Beatitudes are a small fraction of it.
The Lord Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount to his followers. He did so while seated on the rocky hill by the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Many in the New Testament context know the hill as the Mount of Beatitudes. The teachings are recorded in the Gospel of Matthew chapters five to seven, verse 29. They are beautiful teachings.
Some background information: Jesus had come to Galilee after his baptism at the River Jordan. He had performed some miracles of healing, and people, for various reasons, have already started to follow him. In short, he was becoming more popular. In today's language, his soul-searching and inspired messages were going viral. As one would anticipate, many were curious. They wanted to know who he was and what values he brings.
When a new figure appeared with unique skills during the time of Jesus, especially such as 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 is more or less easy-to-remember rhythmic sentences and parallelism. The Rabbis' followers 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, the Blessed Lord, 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 authority. It is, actually, the practice in many cultures. In many countries in the continent of Africa, where I come from, the elder regarded as a "wise person" sits to teach.
I understand this isn't the case in modern western cultures, but it is vital 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 of ex-cathedral. "Ex-cathedral" means "from the seat." When the Pope wants to define a doctrine, he does so ex-cathedral. From the seat of authority is the symbol of legitimacy and authority.
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.
Continue exploring the transforming encounter with the Word with me.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Readings: Monday, Week 10: 1 Kings 17:1-6; Matthew 5:1-12]
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.