THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT! (Mt. Chap 5-7)
The Public Life of Jesus lasted about three short years—from when He was age 30 until 33. Jesus never neglected prayer, His intimate union and communion with His Heavenly Father. However, flowing naturally and forcefully from His deep prayer life was an extremely active ministry with the people He came to serve, solace, and save.
HIS BUSY ACTIVE LIFE OF SERVICE. Jesus’ active life of service could be summarized in three basic activities: 1) Miracles over nature and abundant miracles healing physical ailments; 2) Exorcisms in which he would cast out a devil and at times a whole Legion; 3) Preaching and Teaching, but unlike the Scribes and Pharisees, with great authority.
HIS TEACHING MASTERPIECE. In the four Gospels, of greatest importance in the category of Jesus’ preaching would be what has been termed the SERMON ON THE MOUNT. (Mt. Chap 5-7)
In these three chapters, these three spiritual gems of teaching, Jesus lays out for our reading, meditating upon, and living out, the essence and heart of His message. If meditated upon with utmost sincerity, the Sermon on the Mount can be considered nothing less than radical. In fact, to live it out to perfection transcends and supersedes human capacity; we need an abundant outpouring of God’s grace.
In this short article, we would like to highlight some of the essential messages of this Sermon by the greatest of all Teachers, Jesus, the New Moses, and beg for the grace to understand the message, but even more, to put the message into practice. In fact, Jesus states in this Sermon: “Not all those who say Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do the will of my Heavenly Father.” (Mt. 7:21) Let us beg the Holy Spirit to enlighten us and strengthen us to live out the Gospel challenge.
1. THE BEATITUDES (MT. 5:1-12) Pope Saint John Paul II stated that the Beatitudes present us with a window into the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Indeed, if we really want to have a glimpse into the Sacred Heart of Jesus then we should read and meditate upon the Eight Beatitudes. They are radically opposed to the world and its values, diametrically opposed. A summary: embracing poverty, weeping for a purpose, practicing meekness (powerful emotion under control), hunger and thirst to be holy in body and soul, merciful forgiveness, purity of heart and sentiments, peace over discord and war, and finally, a willingness to be persecuted, rejected, maltreated—these are the basic sentiments and teachings of the Beatitudes. How radically opposed to what the world teaches and offers us!
2. RADICAL AND ABSOLUTE PURITY. One of the Beatitudes challenges us to embrace a radical standard of purity: “Blessed are the pure of heart; for they will see God.” (Mt. 5:8) Building upon this lofty edifice of purity, Jesus challenges us all the more. Not only must we strive to live purity in our body and our actions, but even with the use of our eyes, our heart, and even our innermost intentions. Adultery can be committed by sexual relations with the wrong person, but also, adultery can be committed with the eyes: “You have heard it said, you shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that anyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt. 5:27-28). In a society immersed in sexual immorality (we actually live in a pornographic society), this challenge of Jesus is all the more difficult, but all the more necessary, to be a true follower of the Lord.
3. WHAT ABOUT LOVING YOUR ENEMIES? The Law of talon stated: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Strict Justice). Jesus says that if someone hits us on the right cheek, turn the other cheek to them. If asked to walk a mile, walk two. If asked to give our shirt, give them our coat as well. Then Jesus commands us to both pray for and love our enemies. (Mt 5:39-43) Without the grace of God, this is sheer madness and utterly impossible. But Jesus paved the way and gave us the supreme example as He hung upon the cross, reviled and hated by his enemies, by uttering these words: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” (Lk. 23:34)
4. BECOME THE SAINT THAT GOD CALLS YOU TO BE. At the conclusion of the first chapter of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus exhorts us with another challenge—the Universal Call to Holiness! We are all called to become the saint that God had in mind for us from all eternity. Jesus expresses it in these words: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt. 5:48) By reading the lives of the saints, we come to know in flesh and blood how the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount have truly been lived out. May we all accept the challenge to become the saint that God has called us to be from the beginning of time! The modern and well-loved saint, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, expresses it in these words: “Holiness is not the privilege of the few, but the duty of all.”
5. THREE KEY PRACTICES TO BECOME SAINTS. (Mt. Chapter 6) The Heart of the Sermon on the Mount offers us three essential, as well as indispensable practices to achieve the Universal Call to Holiness. One practice builds upon another. These three practices? Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. How fascinating these practices are and how well they are harmonized and synchronized with the Heart of the Church Liturgical year. This Gospel passage and these three essential practices appear in the Mass kicking off the Season of Lent on Ash Wednesday. One priest offers us a catchy and easy to remember dynamic: Go up! Go in! Go out! We must go up to God through prayer, go in through the practice of fasting and penance, and finally, go out to others by charity in the giving of alms. Examine your life on how you are living out or not living out these three keys to holiness!
6. THE LORD’S PRAYER—THE OUR FATHER. (Mt 6:9-13; Lk. 11:2-4) The Our Father appears twice in the Gospels. Undoubtedly this is the prayer par excellence. This is so for the simple reason that it emanates from the Sacred Heart of Our Lord and Master, Jesus the Lord. In this prayer, consisting of seven key petitions, are found the source and fountain of all wisdom, knowledge, and strength to live a life of authentic holiness. “Give us this day our daily bread….” (Mt. 6:11) May the Lord grant us health to work and sustain ourselves and our family. May we have a hunger for the Bible which is truly bread for our minds. And may we have a real hunger for the Eucharist—the Bread of life. (Read Bread of Life Discourse Jn. 6:25-59)
7. DEPENDENCE AND TRUST IN DIVINE PROVIDENCE. (Mt. 6:25-34) We live in a world where people worry—they are nervous, stressed out to the max, and questioning the many whys of existence. Jesus responds perfectly to this lack of trust and this fretful and constant worrying. More than once Jesus commands us: DO NOT WORRY!!!
Jesus challenges us to trust! The words of Jesus are simple and to the point. He tells us not to worry about what we are to eat or drink, or even what we are going to wear. These are worries and preoccupations of the pagans immersed in the world. “The Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (Mt. 6:8)
Jesus offers examples from nature on how God provides for the natural world and then asks will He not provide for us? Birds do not worry about their next meal. God provides for their food in every moment. The flowers of the field do not worry about where the closest beauty salon can be found and how they can pay for an exotic hairdo and manicure! In fact, Jesus points out that the flowers of the field excel the beauty of King Solomon in his Kingly array! It is up to us to do one thing: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and everything else will be given to you.” (Mt. 6:33)
8. THE GOLDEN RULE. (Mt. Chapter 7) “Do to others what you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.” (Mt. 7:12) Believer as well as non-believer—agnostic, atheist, fervent Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Jew—every single person on the face of the earth understands this famous GOLDEN RULE! We all want to be treated with kindness, love, compassion, mercy, respect and dignity—everyone on the face of the earth!!! Therefore, let us always have this as our rule of life—to treat all exactly the way we want to be treated! What a wonderful world this would be if we took this rule seriously!
9. ANSWER TO PRAYERS. We all too often receive all too little! The reason? Either we do not ask, or we ask poorly, or we do not persevere and trust when we pray. The following is an easy acronym to remember this key concept on prayer: A.S.K. = ASK… SEEK… KNOCK! Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Mt. 7:7) Let us take a cue from the message of Jesus and storm heaven with prayers by asking for miracles, seeking even when the skies are gray, knocking even when it seems as if the door has a double padlock. The key to prayer is perseverance. In the words of the great woman Doctor of the Church, the Doctor of Prayer, Saint Teresa of Avila: “We must have a determined determination to never give up prayer.”
10. THE TWO FOUNDATIONS: ROCK AND SAND. Jesus concludes the Three Chapter Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7) by presenting to us a marked contrast in construction—that of a house. The house built on rock, solidly constructed, could weather and withstand the violent storm; it did not cave in and collapse. However, the house built on sand, once exposed to the inclement weather, collapsed and was totally ruined. The Master Teacher, Jesus the Lord, is essentially stating that this house is our spiritual life. If we base our spiritual life upon feelings, emotions, fads, popular and public opinion, then our spiritual life, our spiritual edifice, is built on sand and we will eventually cave in and succumb to our enemies—the devil, the flesh, and the world. Our spiritual edifice is built on rock when we have a solid prayer life, a fervent Sacramental life, a serious life of asceticism and penance, and a tender and filial devotion to Mary—our life, our sweetness, and our hope.
By prayerfully meditating upon the Sermon on the Mount, the very heart of the teachings of Jesus the Master, we will be lifted on high and motivated to become the great saint that God has called us to be. Remember the words of Jesus the Master: “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt. 5:48)