If we are seeking a foundation from the Old Testament for Jesus’ Sermon the Mount in general and / or the Beatitudes in particular then search no further than
THIS SUNDAY’S FIRST READING [ISAIAH 58: 7 – 19]. What a splendidly powerful summary is presented by the prophet.
Read through the entire extract and make an effort to pinpoint the beatitudes themselves as well as key elements of Jesus first, in depth, preaching of God’s word. In addition, if you look at
TODAY’S PSALM [112 or 111] and recall our reflection for the 22nd January you will discover yet another Old Testament approach to the Beatitudes. In addition you might recognise that a living out of the Sermon on the Mount is what helps to prevent us from slipping back and becoming inhabitants of a land of deep darkness. Indeed, today’s Psalm records a telling reminder that “a light rises in the darkness for the upright.”
There are other rich phrases in this Psalm – like conducting affairs with justice …. the steadfast heart does not fear … open-handed he gives to the poor.
Then, return to the reading from Isaiah and read it in tandem with our Psalm. Certainly you will be motivated to avoid the land of darkness because as Isaiah proclaims today “your gloom
(will be) as the noonday.”
These two scripture extracts confirm that Jesus’ teaching was, indeed, not only very different but
also proclaimed an approach very different from the world around him as well as much of our own contemporary society. Perhaps unknowingly Saint
Paul confirms this in
TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING [1 CORINTHIANS 2: 1 – 5]. The apostle says that his message was not given in “plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit …. and that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in
the power of God.”
A day or two before preparing this reflection I happened to hear the President of Columbia’s acceptance address at the presentation of his Nobel peace prize. One short sentence arrested my attention. He said that “we are the results of our own thoughts.” This is a profound observation expressed in one very simple and concise sentence. It is worth remembering. We have to THINK differently from the secular society in which we live – a society where Gospel and Christian values struggle to find a place. When we think differently, the RESULTS are also different. Too often, perhaps, we are ‘taken-in’ by plausible words of wisdom which influence our thoughts and, therefore, our results. Perhaps, also, we are somewhat hesitant to march to a different tune. Then we need to remind ourselves of Isaiah’s words as well as the encouragement provided by our Psalm: “then shall your light break forth like the dawn … with a firm heart, he trusts in the Lord.”
TODAY’S GOSPEL [MATTHEW 5: 13 – 16] begins to make a great deal of sense. The closing verse on its own provides powerful motivation and presents us with the basic challenge – “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Then, as Paul tells us, we become a “demonstration of the Spirit,” and our faith begins to rest and grow not “in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
At the start of our Gospel extract we are told by the Lord that “you are the salt of the earth.” The reading continues by reminding us that “you are the light of the world.” It is by being salt and light that we enjoy a faith through which, in the Spirit, we are able todemonstrate that it is a faith that rests in the power of God. We progress from lofty words to visible results – because we are thinking differently.
We should not overlook that the verses of our Gospel follow immediately after the proclamation of the Beatitudes. Jesus, with the Beatitudes, sets out the foundations of a new way of thinking which will present different results. These results will be salt to the earth and light to the world only if we are ready, willing and able to approach problems, challenges and situations in a way which demonstrates something new.
The disciples of the Lord must accept their specific calling to be different
. If we lose our saltiness we are “no longer good for anything.” If we hide our light under a bushel no one is able to see any results. However, “a city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
Christians must be
SEEN by, and should be giving a specific TASTE to, the society in which they live. Only then will our “light break forth … healing spring up speedily … and righteousness go before you.”