Weekday Gospel Reflection

Monday in the Tenth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 5:1-12 - World English Bible

1 Seeing the multitudes, Jesus went up onto the mountain. When he had sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 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 those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.

5 Blessed are the gentle,
for they shall inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are those who 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 children of God.

10 Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness' sake,
for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

11 "Blessed are you when people reproach you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

In Matthew 5, Jesus taught his followers on the mountain, a sign of intimacy with God. Since the evangelist gathered the Lord's teachings into five discourses (like the first five books of the Bible, the Torah), he portrayed Jesus and as the new Moses. By instructing his disciples from the heights, the Lord implicitly gave them the new Law, divine commands.

Jesus began the first of his five discourses with the Beatitudes. These set of blessings would define the vision and direction of the rest. In other words, this teaching defined what it meant to follow the Christ. Notice blessing was not immediate, but deferred; the attitude of the disciple was strictly counter-cultural in the first three Beatitudes. The poor or impoverished in attitude would be blessed with the Kingdom (Isaiah 57:15, 66:2). Mourners (for the dead and dying) would be comforted (Isaiah 61:2, 66:10,13). The meek would receive the Promised Land (Psalm 33:7). Again, notice the recipients would not be the ones expected to have such blessings; in the popular mind, the Kingdom would be earned by proud military leaders; their conquest of God's land would not lead to mourning but to rejoicing.

The next four Beatitudes described the attitude of the disciple: a hunger for right living, mercy, unwavering focus on God and a desire for true peace. In each case, the virtue gained its own reward: fulfillment of righteousness, receiving mercy, seeing God and inner peace as God's children.

The last two beatitudes spoke to the negative side of being a disciple: hatred and persecution. The life of the follower would be suffering, just like the prophets suffered for proclaiming God's word to the people.

In all, the Beatitudes clearly laid out what it meant to follow Jesus. The path was usually not what the neophyte expected and not what was popular, but it did lead to the Kingdom and inner contentment.

How do you live the Beatitudes in your life?

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Tuesday in the Tenth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 5:13-16 - World English Bible

Jesus said to his disciples:

13 "You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its flavor, with what will it be salted? It is then good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men. 14 You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill can't be hidden. 15 Neither do you light a lamp, and put it under a measuring basket, but on a stand; and it shines to all who are in the house. 16 Even so, let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

The parables of salt and light lie at the heels of the Beatitudes. Jesus preached his blessings as a definition for the disciple, one who was counter-cultural (the first three Beatitudes), virtuous, (next four) and persecuted (final two). The stress these standards had on a possible convert or neophyte could be daunting.

Yet, the Christian could not shrink away. He was like the salt pillar of a clan, used for flavor and as a preservative for meats and fish. These pillars were never really pure, but contained dirt. When the clan could no longer retrieve any meaning amounts of salt from the pillar, they would throw it out onto the road, where the dirt-salt mixture actually hardened the by-way. So, the Christian had to maintain some sense of "purity" (devotion) in spite of the world's pollution, otherwise they would be "trampled under foot by men" (held in contempt).

The true disciple showed his faith by word and example, like a light in the darkness. He could not hide his actions; indeed, his deeds should point others towards faith, for the reputation of the Father of the Christ depended upon the reputation of the Christian.

How are you salt and light to those around you?

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Wednesday in the Tenth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 5:17-19 - World English Bible

Jesus told his followers:

17 "Don't think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn't come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18 For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished. 19 Whoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven."

These three verses act as a transition from the ideal of the disciple (Beatitudes and the parables of salt and light) to an interpretation of the Law. In other words, Jesus stated the qualities of the follower, then shifted to the ways the disciple would act.

Unlike other religions in the first century AD, Judaism was literary; its tenets and practices were based upon its Scripture. So the "law and the prophets" (i.e., the Hebrew Bible) were held in such a high esteem that scribes took great care in copying them, even in the greatest detail (the smallest letter known as the "iota" and the tiny pen stroke known as the "serif," both from the Greek). Jesus qualified his remarks as a true interpretation of the Torah, not a false one that would damage its "fabric." Hence, he stressed care in teaching the Law; the one who had a loose interpretation and taught others the same would have a poor reputation, but the one who had an interpretation faithful to that of the Christ would have a great reputation.

How have you keep the commands of Jesus?

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Thursday in the Tenth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 5:20-26 - World English Bible

Jesus said to his disciples:

20 "For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

21 "You have heard that it was said to the ancient ones, 'You shall not murder;'and 'Whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' 22 But I tell you, that everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause will be in danger of the judgment; and whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' will be in danger of the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of Gehenna.

23 "If therefore you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are with him on the way; lest perhaps the prosecutor deliver you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and you be cast into prison. 26 Most certainly I tell you, you shall by no means get out of there, until you have paid the last penny."

How do we truly evangelize? Don't actions speak louder than words? Jesus assumed the power of example over words in his interpretation of the Law. In his commentary over the Fifth Commandment, he equated murder with the desire to destroy another's reputation through insult. While we might think the terms "empty-headed" (a close translation of "raca") and "fool" sound mild, at the time of Jesus they insinuated "unwise" and "godless" ("The fool in his heart said, 'There is no God.'" from Psalm 53:1). Both Greeks and Jews considered wisdom and piety as the highest virtues; to claim an opponent was an empty-headed fool made him both unwise and an atheist, outside the bounds of ancient society. These were charges with heavy consequences.

So what happened if one sinned with ill-chosen words? Reconcile, then offer worship to God, for the sin was like a large debt to the one offended, money owed that could cost one's freedom in debtor's prison. Forgiveness could not only restore a relationship, it could also advance efforts to bring others to Christ.

We end with the first comment Jesus made, exceeding the moral standard of the day. We can only attract others to the Lord if our actions rise above what society thinks is morally acceptable, even admirable. For disciples in the early Church, that standard was the morality of the Pharisees. For us, that level might be different, but, to catch the eye of those around us, our behavior must stand out. We truly evangelize when our actions speak louder than our words.

How have your actions spoke louder than your words this week?

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Friday in the Tenth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 5:27-32 - World English Bible

Jesus told his disciples:

27 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery;' 28 but I tell you that everyone who gazes at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it away from you. For it is more profitable for you that one of your members should perish, than for your whole body to be cast into Gehenna. 30 If your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off, and throw it away from you. For it is more profitable for you that one of your members should perish, than for your whole body to be cast into Gehenna."

After his commentary on murder, Jesus turned his attention to adultery (Exodus 20:4), stressing not the act, but the desire. Above all, lust preceded adultery, so he addressed the urge with the metaphor of self-mutilation (ironically, an act that violated the Law; see Leviticus 19:28). When he said "pluck out and cast away" one's eye, he meant turn away from the cause of lust; when he said "cut off" your right hand, he meant end the relationship of a best friend (the person on one's right") if he led you into lust. Self control and a wise choice of friends were far better than a life marred by lust and eternal condemnation.

How have you chosen your friends? Do they help or hinder your self-control?

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Saturday in the Tenth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 5:33-37 - World English Bible

Jesus told his disciples:

33 "Again you have heard that it was said to them of old time, 'You shall not make false vows, but shall perform to the Lord your vows,' 34 but I tell you, don't swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God; 35 nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of his feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Neither shall you swear by your head, for you can't make one hair white or black. 37 But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes' and your 'No' be 'No.' Whatever is more than these is of the evil one."

Obviously, the Third Commandment prohibits taking loose oaths. Too often people use the phrase "I swear to God, that..." as a means to prop up an assertion. But a closer look at this passage revealed that the question of swearing without thinking was a side issue.

Jesus addressed the entire question of making any promise to God. This was controversial at the time and still is. In Acts 18:18, St. Paul implicitly swore an oath to the Lord when he took a Nazirite vow (cut his hair). Yet, James 5:12 stated: "But above all things, my brothers, don't swearó not by heaven, or by the earth, or by any other oath; but let your "yes" be "yes", and your "no", "no"; so that you don't fall into hypocrisy." The Torah did not prohibit solemn oaths to be sworn, but regulated them (Deuteronomy 23:21-23). However, to keep the faithful from breaking the Law, Jesus commanded his followers from making any oath, without any "work-arounds" (swearing by heaven or God's throne or the earth or Jerusalem or even by one's own self), for everything came from God. He wanted his followers to give a straight answer and mean it.

Should we make any deals with God, any promises we need to keep? I've heard too many stories of conversion based upon promises to the Lord to give a hard answer. But, we should keep the Lord's words in mind when we are tempted to make a vow. Such a promise must be taken most seriously.

Pray before you promise anything to God or another human being.

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