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Matthew 5: 1-12 – Week 10 Ordinary Time, Monday (King James Audio Bible KJV, Spoken Word)

1 AND seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

The Beatitudes form our gateway to the Sermon on the Mount, the first of the great five discourses which are recounted in Matthew’s Gospel, and a beautiful invitation to be with Jesus, a programme by which we may live a Christian life. Moses ascended a mountain to be with God and to bring the Law back to the people. Now Jesus ascends this mountain and draws the people with him, both his disciples and the multitude, and here he reforms and brings new life to the Law, teaching with authority as only he can.

The Beatitudes give us Christ’s teachings as it were in microcosm. They are an invitation for everyone to be spiritually renewed and to receive such grace as will bring us to heaven. Jesus names different groups or kinds of people, and we are those people. Each one of the Beatitudes is for everyone. Each sheds its own special light on the Christian’s soul.

Jesus’ teaching is a call to renewal of faith. In the Beatitudes, Jesus is drawing his listeners toward a kind of revolution in terms of the religion to which they would be accustomed. Received norms are overturned. Then as now, Jesus is asking us to look again at our life from a spiritual perspective. Jesus is especially asking his listeners not to think of earthly riches and the fleeting happiness that thereby accrues as a reward from God for good behaviour, and conversely earthly suffering and misfortune as punishments. Rather we are asked to realise where true happiness lies, which is in our proper relationship with God, with Jesus.

We may know the whole text of the Bible, the New Testament and the Old. The Beatitudes are at the heart of the truth we return to. We are at home with Jesus in these verses.

Audio Bible KJV | King James Version | Beatitudes | Word Aloud

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. We are asked in the Beatitudes to be detached from material things, possessions and those things we cannot afford to possess, and to know these worldly goods as transitory. We are asked to store treasure in heaven and not to set undue value on the treasures of this world. Additionally, we are to adopt an attitude of spiritual poverty in our relationship with God. We cannot rely on our own merits. Rather we give ourselves to God and trust in His mercy. We are to be as a little child in the presence of God, owning nothing.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. We are blessed when we experience grief and mourn for the loss of loved ones. We are blessed also when we mourn for our sins, pained by the offence which we or others have offered God, saying sorry to God and asking for God’s forgiveness. When we honestly admit to our sins and allow ourselves to grieve for what we have done, emptying ourselves in this way, God will comfort us.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. When we face adversity, we are called by Jesus through the Beatitudes to preserve inner calm and serenity. Christians are persecuted in this world. More generally, Christianity in civilized countries finds itself at odds with much that is worldly. When we are confronted by evils, when the evils of our society rub up against us, such that we may recoil in disgust, still we are encouraged by Jesus to maintain our sense of humility and always to give and to radiate our joy at living a Christian life.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. We are called by Jesus not merely to be quite good or quite nice. We are called not merely to try not to do much that’s very wrong. We are called not merely to do our bit for our community, for our neighbours, the occasional stranger, our family and friends. We are called to be more. In fact, Jesus’ call is for us to be saints. With every fibre of our being, Jesus wants us to hunger and thirst after righteousness. This is a life mission, requiring a lifetime’s effort. Above all, we know that with Jesus we can be saints.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. When we give to other people, we receive back those gifts magnified. Experience teaches us this. Kindness propagates. We sow these little seeds – a kind word, words of comfort, a helping hand – and they grow as the recipients of our gifts come more to life with those gifts, and then pass them on to other people. Our gift, that seed, has made a better world, and that’s good for everybody. When people hoard their treasures, their economy – literally and metaphorically – dies. Nor, in the economy of human salvation, is it a case of my having this meaning you can’t have it, or vice versa. The economy of salvation is a flourishing trade in which all participants profit. More than this, we give and, irrespective of any measurable return, merely through the act and in the moment of giving, we become richer. This knowledge can be reached through human reason. It is beautiful already. Add, then, to this the revealed knowledge of God, who knows each of our acts of mercy, and gives to us, shows mercy to us, beyond human comprehension, immeasurably.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. We cannot and need not fake sanctity. When we pray alone, when we spend just a little time each day with God, we find ourselves naturally in a close, living relationship with Jesus. This then empowers us. It shines through our words and deeds. Our days become joyful. What we are doing is living from the heart, and our heart is with Jesus. This is how it is to pray.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. The crowds have gathered to listen to Jesus. In later Gospel readings, there will be the feeding of the multitudes; then Jesus will command the men to sit down. What does this mean? When the men, who would be of different groups in a sectarian environment, agree to sit down, then they relinquish a warlike posture; they become peaceful. Again and again, Jesus commands us to be peaceful. In Jesus’ time, the particular relevance of this was that, by not seeking to rebel against the civil authority, the Roman occupation, the people could live and live in the spirit, enjoying their relationship with God and counting as nothing that which was Caesar’s. Jesus taught the people that his kingdom was not of the flesh, but of the spirit. In our time, we too are called to this realization. So much in our society, though and when we be not at war, calls us to competition at the very least, and often aggression, and what Jesus is saying is that we can rise above this, so that when we find confrontation we may place ourselves between warring people and seek to bring peace to those people, and through this love and peace and joy to all. This requires people to lay down their arms, metaphorically or literally. In order to inspire this, we must lay down our own arms. By sitting down on the grass ourselves, we encourage others to follow. Then we find peace and brotherhood.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. In our time, we know people, often via the mass media and also in real life, personally, who are holy and so shine a light on our own souls, both reflecting to us the true state of ourselves and also enabling us to be better, to strive to live as saints, to seek to imitate Christ.

All too often, we may find ourselves shouting at the radio or the television when people purport to be good and to speak well, and really we know this is a hollow act. What often happens is that we become complicit in the specious arguments of such people, because they excuse us: we are not called by such people to lead holy lives, and so these people, generally highly esteemed in society, permit us to continue to live an unholy life. Some politicians, for example, may fall into this category. When we are placed instead in a relationship with those who are truly striving to give their lives to God, then something else happens, which is opposite to what happens, often, in our relationship with those who need our votes. Now we are confronted with the possibility of good, the potential for good, and now we see just how good we can be, if we only strive in a certain way and give up, or relinquish, some things which we know are bad for us.

This is Jesus’ gift. We may be mocked for it. We shall also be respected. Teasing and deep respect often go hand in hand in our society, in which people are often ashamed to admit to their capacity for good. We need not fear rising above an ostensible desire to ‘level down’ on the part of our fellow human beings. We can commit to righteousness, and through this enjoy the most spectacularly beautiful life ourselves, and shine to others.

Jesus’ description of the blessed in the Beatitudes becomes explicitly an invitation to ‘you’, to us all; we are no longer looking on while others give their lives in such a way as to ask to be saints: it is over to us now.

‘Blessed are you.’ It seems laughable, ridiculous. ‘Blessed are you.’ Oh really? We might find ourselves rolling around in laughter, just as God laughs in joy as sinners come home to Him. Blessed am I? Yes. It seems absurd. And it is true.

This is the very same absurdity, the seeming nonsense, of God on the cross. Our Messiah. The Messiah. Jesus Christ. The Lord. There on the cross is a picture of complete blessedness – indeed of complete happiness, as the Greek is sometimes translated. God the Son, Jesus, hanging there flayed on the cross, strips of his skin hanging off him. This is God’s deep mystery of joy and it is our salvation.

Dare we say this? Dare we proclaim Jesus Christ as our Gospel? If this is nonsense it is heavenly so. Blessed are we when men revile us and persecute us and say all evil against us for the sake of this our faith. This is beatitude. May we rejoice and be exceeding glad. Thanks be to God. Thanks be that we live with Jesus.

BEHOLD, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (1 James 3: 1-3)

King James Audio Bible | King James Version | Concluding Prayer

Alighty Lord and God,
protect us by your power throughout the course of this day,
even as you have enabled us to begin it:
do not let us turn aside to any sin,
but let our every thought, word and deed
aim at doing what is pleasing in your sight.
We make our prayer through our Lord.