A description not a prescription – 4th Sunday in ordinary time – Matthew 5: 1-12

A description not a prescription – 4th Sunday in ordinary time – Matthew 5: 1-12

Matthew’s gospel is often referred to as the teaching gospel for it contains five great discourses into which Matthew has gathered so much of his teaching material.

Writing to a Judeo- Christian audience sometime between 75- 90 AD the gospel has strong overtones of a ‘family feud’. In 80 AD, the Rabbis of Jamnia had placed the Christians outside the community of Judaism. The ‘birkat hamminim,’ a curse pronounced on heretics and which included the Christians, set the Christians community firmly outside the boundaries of Judaism, something that the community of St Matthew will contest.

Matthew’s gospel has two clear focuses; that Jesus is the Christ and that the kingdom of God that he proclaims will break upon the world soon.  The gospel of today is the opening verses of the first of the five discourses and is commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount.

Enunciated in this sermon, are the key attitudes that the disciple must live by. The intended hearers of the sermon are the disciples but the crowds present are not barred from the message of Jesus.  In Chapter 7:28 it is the crowds who, having heard the sermon, react to the words of Jesus.

If Michelangelo had the ‘last judgment’ as his ‘pièce de résistance’ then this was Matthew’s masterpiece. St Matthew brilliantly weaves the teachings of Jesus in this opening discourse setting down the mind of the master.  At its heart is the theme of justice and the kingdom of God.  He grips the reader with the unadulterated teaching on the kingdom leaving the reader wondering; how can values such as meekness and poverty, mourning and hunger bring one happiness?

The beatitudes are not some pious hopes, a ‘pie in the sky when you die’ but a ‘congratulations’. It is recognition of an existing state of happiness that the disciple chooses to freely live. While the virtues they purport may seem to be ‘out of style’ and ‘out of step’ they are indeed the way a disciple is to walk as sign to the world.

The beatitudes are not a list of ‘thou shalt not’s’. The list we find here is in the indicative mood, not the imperative. It is description, not prescription. However in following them we find the ‘blessings’ of being a citizen of the kingdom of God. Though the description of the kingdom sounds bleak; the take away for those who have lived it. is an experience of ‘authentic happiness’.

Fr Warner D’Souza




Spread the love ♥

You might also like

One thought on “A description not a prescription – 4th Sunday in ordinary time – Matthew 5: 1-12”

  • Thank you Fr for the background and understanding of today’s Gospel. Your sharing draws one to read the Gospel text itself with the will to practice it in everyday life.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *