Grace to you!
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 Matthew 5-7:29. 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 interpreters” 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.
However, something was radically different about Jesus’ teaching, namely its contents and the non-verbal cues that were uniquely powerful.
The contents of Jesus’ teaching, as well as the actual delivery, were so different and powerful that his astonished listeners commented at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, he taught as one who had authority and not as their scribes (Matthew 7:29).
What would one have expected from the Incarnate Word, Divine Logos, Jesus Christ, as he delivers his word? “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1) and the Word is Jesus Christ (John 1:14). Jesus communicates who he is and not what he learned from another teacher. He is the Word; hence, such power followed every word he spoke.
Let us look at the first body of teachings from Jesus. It’s what is called The Beatitudes. From this teaching, we know what it means to be truly blessed. So, if you want to be exceedingly blessed, connect with God’s Word and wisdom in The Beatitudes.
The nuggets of “blessedness” given by Jesus on The Beatitudes are eight. So you know, the Greek word used by Jesus translated as “Blessed” is μακάριος (makarios).
Makarios refers to the profound spiritual satisfaction and happiness that thrives amidst any condition, good or bad. It sustains one through pain and sorrows, trials and tribulations. It’s like being solidly established so that nothing would take away your peace, joy and satisfaction. Such a blessing is desirable, isn’t it?
I want such enduring satisfaction so that I’ll be firmly established on God’s Word and graces. I hope you do too.
Blessedness of this kind is far more sustaining than many of the things people spend money on for comfort. It isn’t bought. It is divine blessing, a divine gift. To have it is to be a fortunate testimony of divine favor.
Many people, I suppose, want happiness. They want stability in life. They desire the kind of stability that keeps them so balanced that nothing will take away their joy. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be working so hard to get themselves and their family set for the rainy days. Such stability or favor, one can find by applying the principles in The Beatitudes.
For our private reading, I would recommend we read Matthew 5:1-12, Jesus’ entire presentation on The Beatitudes.
In addition, I would like to hint a subtle point about the eight beatitudes. Two of them, the first and the seventh, promise in the present, with certainty as if in the here and now. The rest refers to what will be.
Here are the two I am referring to. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:3).” And “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). Poverty of spirit and persecution for the sake of Christ, chief of which is martyrdom, grants express access to heaven. It’s wonderful to notice this.
To read more my thoughts on the individual beatitudes, please click here.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on Scriptural 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.