Lesson 12 Chapters 6:19-7:28
The Sermon on the Mount Concluded
Teaching About the Public Life of the Christian Disciple and the Practice of Righteousness

Beloved Heavenly Father.
In the Sermon on the Mount Your  Son has laid out for us the path to heaven.  It is a path that demands a  holiness of heart and a firmness of character.  It is not an easy path, but  it is the path to glory and its destination is our true home.  Treading  this narrow path to salvation requires both spiritual abandonment and  intellectual knowledge on the part of the faith filled disciple.  As  Christians we must trust completely on Christ to lead the way as He gives us His  own life in the Eucharist to nourish us on our journey and the teachings of  Mother Church to keep us on the right path.  Guide us now, most beloved  Holy Spirit, as we study our last lesson on the Sermon on the Mount, as we pray  in the name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

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Therefore I tell  you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and  what you will wear.  For life is more than food and the body more than  clothing. […].  Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be  given you besides.  Do not be afraid any longer little flock, for your  Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.
Luke 12:22, 31-32.

In His teaching about almsgiving, prayer and fasting (Mt 6:1-18), Jesus was addressing the private, hidden life of the Christian disciple  (CCC 1969).  However, in Matthew 6:19-34 Jesus is concerned with the  Christian disciple’s public life, addressing issues concerning material  possessions, food and drink, clothing, and worldly ambition. He  addresses these issues by contrasting the choice between:

  1. Two treasures (6:19-21)
  2. Two physical conditions (6:21-23)
  3. Two masters (6:24)

and intimately the choice between

  1. Two life goals (6:25-34)

Matthew 6:19-21 ~ Treasure in Heaven: (Jesus continued  addressing His disciples, saying) “Do not store up for yourselves treasures  on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal.  20 But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay  destroy, nor thieves break in and steal.  21 For where your treasure is, there also will be your heart be.”

In this passage Jesus is contrasting earthly treasures as  opposed to heavenly rewards.

Question: How are earthly treasures limited in value?  How do they compare to heavenly rewards?
Answer: Earthly treasures are temporary, corruptible  and therefore insecure while heavenly treasures are eternal, incorruptible and  forever secure.

Question: What is Jesus prohibiting when He tells us Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…?  Is this verse in  contradiction to Prov 6:6-11?
Answer: Jesus forbids the selfish accumulation of  goods which flaunts the needs of the poor.  He is not imposing a ban on all  possessions, nor is He forbidding us to “stock up” and save in time of famine.   Scripture praises the ant that stores up in the summer for what it will need in  the winter and criticizes as foolish those who make no provisions for their  families or the future.

Question: What does Jesus mean when He says For  where your treasure is there also will you heart be?
Answer: It is a fantasy to believe that security and  happiness lies in the abundance of worldly possessions.  If your “heart” is  set on material goods, that will be your “treasure” as opposed to setting your  “heart” on God and His heavenly kingdom as your “treasure.”

Referring to the heart (as Jesus has frequently done in His  sermon as a metaphor for the true reflection of a person), Jesus is telling  Christians that our “hearts” always follow what is dearest to us.  If your  heart follows the world, you belong to the world, but if your heart is turned to  heaven, heaven is where you belong.  Jesus will repeat this teaching in Luke 12:33-34, using the same images as He used in this passage but He will  encourage an even higher standard: Sell your possessions and give to those in  need.  Get yourselves purses that do not wear out, treasure that will not  fail you, in heaven where no thief can reach it and no moth destroy it.   For wherever your treasure is, that is where your heart will be too.

Matthew 6: 22-26 ~ Light versus darkness in serving God  versus serving the world:
(Jesus continued) “The lamp of the body is the eye.   If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will  be in darkness.  And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the  darkness be.  24 No one can  serve two masters.  He will either hate one and love the other, or be  devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Question: What contrast is Jesus making in this  passage as opposed to the last passage?
Answer: Jesus turns from the contrast between two  treasures to the contrast between two conditions, the sighted and the  blind “light verses darkness, and between the two masters “God or the world.

He uses the figure of speech the eye is the lamp of the  body to illustrate that our eyes make the world visible to us in the same  way a lamp makes a dark room visible.  In this verse the “eye is the lamp”  is a metaphor used in the same way Jesus used the heart as a metaphor for the  true depth of a person’s being.  Just as blindness leads to darkness, a  person who turns away from God is also in “darkness” “so too the eye gives  “light” to the body just as one who walks with God is in the light.  It is  a question of right and wrong “vision” whether we have our eyes on God who  illuminates our lives or we live in darkness without God and are subjects of the  world.

Question: This passage in Matthew 6:19-23 gives two  reasons for laying up our treasure in heaven and not on earth.  What are  the two reasons?

  1. The  first is that heavenly treasure is more durable; it is not subject to decay but  is eternal, as we have already mentioned.
  2. The  second is that our “vision” will be one of walking in the “light of Christ” and  not in the “darkness” of this world.

Question: What is the key verse in this passage (and  the key verse in this entire section) that speaks of a third contrast in  addition to earthly treasure verses heavenly treasure and light verses darkness?   What does it mean?
Answer: Matthew 6:24 is the key verse of this entire  section: No one can be the slave of two masters…  God and the  values of the world are not compatible.  We must choose one or the other  for God must be served with a sincere and exclusive devotion.

Matthew 6: 25-34 ~ Depending on God: (Jesus  said) “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat  [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than  food and the body more than clothing?  26 Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather  nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are not you more  important than they?  27 Can  any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?  28 Why are you anxious about clothes?  Learn from the way the  wild flowers grow.  They do not work or spin.  29 But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was  clothed like one of them.  30 If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into  the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?  31 So do not worry and say,  What are we to eat?  Or  What are we to drink?’ or  What are we to wear?’  32 All these things the pagans seek.  Your  heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  33 But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and  all these will be given you besides.  34 Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.   Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

Jesus’ “Therefore,” oun in the Greek, indicates  that this passage is a summing up and a conclusion on His teaching on the public  life of the Christian disciple and the accumulation of earthy possessions.   The Christian must compare the security of the two treasures, the usefulness of  the two eye conditions, and the worth of the two masters:

  The Two Treasures:   Earthly possessions:
corruptible, insecure
  Heavenly treasures:
eternal, secure
  The Two Eye Conditions:   Blindness:
darkness to the body
a light to the body
  The Two Masters   The World:
the false, temporary master
the true, good and eternal master

And when we have made the choice for heavenly treasure, for  the light of Christ for good sight, and for God as our true Master then, Jesus  says, this is how we behave: Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your  life… (verse 25).

Question: When we choose God, what do we need to be  anxious about?  Why?
Answer: We do not need to be anxious about what we eat  or what we wear.  If all our energy is devoted to our relationship with  God, we will not have time to concern ourselves with worrying about what we  cannot control.

Question: Again Jesus teaches His disciples by  providing a contrast “this time it is a contrast of two life goals.  What  are they?
Answer: Earthly ambition as opposed to Godly ambition.

Question: What in essence does Jesus say about worry  in this passage?
Answer: Worry is a lack of faith in God.

Jesus teaches that God created and now sustains life just as  He created and now helps us to sustain our bodies.  The logic is if God  takes care of our lives can’t we trust Him to take care to the needs of our  bodies, and if we trust God to take care of our lives and our bodies cannot we  also trust Him to take care of the less important matters like our food and  clothing?

Question: Jesus reinforces this logic by asking what  question in verse 27?
Answer: Can any of you by worrying add a single  moment to your life-span?

The last word in this Greek phrase can be translated as  either “life-span” or “stature.”  To add an extra inch to our height or an  extra minute to our lives is not in our hands.  If we must leave these  issues to God, shouldn’t we also leave the greater issues over which we have no  control in His hands?  But this passage does not mean:

  1. Christians are not exempt for earning a living, or wearing clothes, or providing food for their families.
  2. Christians are not exempt from living up to their responsibilities to others.
  3. Christians are not exempt from experiencing trials.

In verse 34 Jesus says that we must …not worry about  tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself,  meaning that we do the  best that we can with the circumstances we are given and leave the rest up to  God, refusing to become a slave to worry.  If we become a slave to worry we  are not trusting in God to provide for us.

Question: What does Jesus mean when He says: Sufficient for a day is its own evil (verse 34)?
Answer: He means one day’s trouble is enough  for one day.  Take one day at and time, living that day in full obedience  to God.  Worry is not compatible with a Christian’s trust in God.

Chapter 7


Love without truth is blind “truth without love is empty.  Joseph  Cardinal Ratzinger, April 2006, from the Mass prior to the concave which elected  him Pope Benedict XVI

But the LORD’s kindness[hesed = faithful covenant-love] is forever, toward the faithful from age to  age.  He favors the children’s children of those who keep his covenant, who  take care to fulfill its precepts. Psalms 103:17-18

The connecting thread that runs through chapter 7 of  Matthew’s Gospel is that of relationships.  Jesus has taught on a  Christian’s character, on a Christian’s influence in the faith community and in  the world, on the responsibility of the Christian to lead a righteous, holy life  and on the destructive force of ambition and self-glorification.  Now, in the  conclusion of His homily to His disciples, He will focus on the Christian’s  commitments by discussing seven kinds of relationships:

  1. Matthew 7:1-5: to our brothers and sisters in the faith community in whom we may discern a “splinter” of sin, and to whom we have a responsibility to help and not to judge unless we are innocent of the same sin.
  2. Matthew 7:6: to a group of people designated as “dogs” and “pigs” who in their animal nature refuse a share in the Kingdom.
  3. Matthew 7:7-11: to our heavenly Father to whom we are commanded to pray in confidence.
  4. Matthew 7:12: to everyone in general with the “golden rule” as the guide in our attitude and behavior towards them.
  5. Matthew 7:13-14: in our relationship with our fellow pilgrims who in this earthly exile enter with us through the Narrow Gate and walk the more difficult and less traveled Narrow Path to heaven.
  6. Matthew 7:15-20: in our encounter with false prophets who we are to recognize and avoid.
  7. Matthew 7:21-27: in our relationship with Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  It is His teaching that we are commanded to faithfully commit ourselves and to unswervingly obey.

Matthew 7:1-6 ~ Judging others in our attitude  to our brothers and sisters in the Christian community: (Jesus  continues, saying)“Stop judging, that you may not be judged.  2 For as  you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be  measured out to you.  3 Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye,  but do not perceive the wooden bean in your own eye?  4 How can  you say to your brother,  Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the  wooden bean is in your eye?  5 You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye  first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye. 

6 Do not  give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, least they trample  them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

Although Jesus has called us to a standard of “perfection” in Matthew 5:48 when He said, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is  perfect,” He understands that this is not a perfection that we are likely to  achieve in this life, nor does He anticipate that the Christian community as a  whole will be perfect.

Question: What is the paradox of the Church in her  mission to resist sin and to live in holiness?
Answer: The paradox of the Church is that she is the  sinless Bride of Christ who is full of sinners.

Jesus knows that within each individual faith community and  within each Christian family there will at times be disharmony and disunity.   In this passage Jesus directs how Christians should behave in the community  toward a fellow Christian who has fallen into error and toward others who have  fallen into sin.  In cases of disharmony Jesus forbids two actions and  encourages a third in how Christians act and react to other Christians and to  “our neighbor” “who is now identified in the New Covenant as everyone with whom  we come into contact in our walk of faith:

Question: In cases of disharmony Jesus forbids two  actions and encourages a third in how Christians act and react to other  Christians.  What are these actions?

  1. The Christian shall not judge sin in someone if he/she is guilty of that same sin or other sins in his/her own life (7:1, 5).
  2. The Christian shall not be a hypocrite who pretends to be holy while living with unconfessed sin in his/her own life; such a person will receive a harsher judgment themselves because they are fully aware of the sin (7:5).
  3. The Christian shall be a loving and concerned guide to brothers/sisters in the Christian family, in helping them avoid sin and to live righteously (7:3, 4 & 5).

Note: the Greek word for brother or brother’s in these verses  is the word adelphos, which means “from the womb.”  In the  plural it can refer to both brothers and sisters.(1)

Jesus commands us to stop judging that you may not be  judged.  Remember the rule in correctly interpreting a Biblical  passage: Scripture must be studied in light of other Scripture; interpretation  must not conflict with or contradict other Bible passages nor can interpretation  conflict with the doctrine of the Church passed down to us through the Apostles  and interpreted by their successors, the Magisterium.

Question: What doesn’t Jesus mean in this passage  concerning sin and judgment?  See CCC 1868-69.

  • He can not mean that we never judge.  Jesus is not suggesting that civil law courts be suspended nor does He mean that we shouldn’t critically judge sin or that we should ignore faults in others that are harmful to themselves and to the community.
  • He does not want us to refuse to judge between truth and error or between good and evil.

The Church teaches that sin is like a contagious disease and  that we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we ignore  them or cooperate in them.

Question: According to the Catechism (see citation  1668), in what four ways might we cooperate in another person’s sins?

  1. When  we participate directly and voluntarily in another person’s sin.
  2. When  we advise or approve or praise another person’s sins.
  3. When  we protect the sin by not disclosing or hindering the person from committing the  sin when our action to prevent the sin could make a difference.
  4. When  we protect someone who has committed an evil act and prevent them from being  brought to justice.

In Matthew 18:15-20 Jesus will address the steps one needs to  take within the faith community when a brother or sister sins (either in a  sinful act or a false teaching).  Jesus’ teaching during this entire homily  is based on the assumption that the Christian disciple should use his/her  critical reasoning powers to discern between righteous and unrighteous behavior  and then to avoid unrighteous behavior.

St. Paul, writing to the Church at Corinth concerning  problems with sexual immorality within the community advised: I have written  to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people–not at all  meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers,  or idolaters.  In that case you would have to leave this world.  But  now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a  brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a  drunkard or a swindler.  With such a man do not even eat.  What  business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?  Are you not to  judge those inside?  God will judge those outside.  Expel the  wicked man from among you (1 Cor 5:9-13).  If we are commanded to “be  perfect just as our heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48) then we must be  willing to discern what constitutes sin in order to avoid sin in order to live a  righteous life and to protect the faith community from sin.

In the Corinthians passage Paul is addressing our  responsibility to judge sins within the covenant family “those outside the  covenant are the concern of the civil authorities and God as the ultimate judge.  Jesus will teach on this same subject in Matthew 18:15-18.

Question: Do we or do we not have a duty to judge  between right and wrong and between good and evil?
Answer: If we do not judge between what is good and  what is evil how can we strive to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is  perfect” as Jesus commanded in Matthew 5:48?  After all, isn’t the  search for holiness the primary purpose in our lives?

Perhaps the key word is “judge.”  We are to assess sin,  then critically examine the consequences of the sin and call the sinner within  the community to repentance.  If the person refuses to repent and persists  in sin that is damaging to the community, the Church can take the drastic action  of excommunicating that person from the covenant family as an extreme measure to  call the person to repentance (CCC 1463, 1 Cor 5:13).  However, we are not  to judge the condition of that person’s soul or the person’s ultimate eternal  condition–that is a judgment reserved for God.  St Paul wrote to the  Church in Rome and applied the teaching of Jesus in this passage in Romans 14:4: Who are you to pass judgment on someone else’s servant?  Before his own  master he stands or falls.  And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to  make him stand.  The point is we can critically analyze and judge  actions but we cannot judge hearts and motives “only God can judge the intent of  a human heart.

Question: But if we do judge the behavior of a person,  whether for proper or improper motives, what warning does Jesus give us?
Answer: If we judge another person we must take care  that our action is based on righteousness and love; if our action in judging is  motivated by anger or jealousy or hypocrisy, or the zeal of finding a fault; we  too can fall under judgment and be closely examined for the same sin in our own  lives.

If we take on the responsibility of judge then we cannot  plead ignorance if we fall into the same sin; in fact, we will be judged more  harshly.  Jesus’ command not to judge, therefore, is not a command to be  ignorant or blind but a plea to be merciful because there for the grace of God  we might also tread.  Father Luis de Leon writes in his commentary on  the life of Job: God measures out according as we measure out and forgives as  we forgive, and comes to our rescue with the same tenderness as he sees us  having toward others [quoted from the Navarre Commentary on the Gospel of  Matthew, page 80].

Jesus is telling the Christian not to be a hypocrite and in  verses 3-5 Jesus tells another little parable contrasting specks of dust with  large wooden beams.  There is the saying that “it takes a thief to know a  thief” and “there is no honor among thieves.”  In other words, the sinner  is the first to suspect another of the same sin. In this parable Jesus exposes  human hypocrisy as the reason we should take care to judge the sin but not the  soul of the person.  Not only are we are fallible humans but we are fallen  humans.  It is our fallen nature and our concupiscence, our own tendency to  sin, that disqualifies us.  In mercy and in humility we should help our  brother or sister to remove the “speck” of sin from their lives and in gratitude  look to our heavenly Father to forgive the log of sin in our lives.  In St  John Chrysostom’s homily on this passage he writes: Correct him but not as a  foe, nor as an adversary exacting a penalty, but as a physician providing  medicines.  And St. Josemaria Escriva wisely advises us To criticize, to  destroy, is not difficult; any unskilled laborer knows how to drive his pick  into the noble and finely-hewed stone of a cathedral.  To construct: that is  what requires the skill of a master (The Way, page 456].

Matthew 7:6Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls  before swine, least they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to  pieces.”

Then in Matthew 7:6 Jesus makes a strange comment about dogs  and pigs.  There are, He tells us, people who behave like dogs and pigs.   The people of God were to observe ritual cleanliness laws that included only  eating foods that were ritually “clean” (i.e. see Lev chapter 11).  The  wild packs of “unclean” dogs who roamed the trash dumps were despised as were  the ritually “unclean” gentiles who lived such immoral lives, and so gentiles  were usually given the label “dogs” (see Jesus reply to the Canaanite woman in Mt 15:26).  Pigs, of course, were also “unclean” animals to the righteous  Jew; pigs wallowed in filth like a sinner wallows in sin.  We are not to  judge the intent of sinner’s heart but we must not ignore their sins and faults  when they act like dogs and pigs.  St. Peter, perhaps thinking of this  passage in Matthew 7:6, would bring these two animals together in his letter to  the universal Church in two proverbs in a teaching concerning those who turn  away and abandon the teaching of Christ: What is expressed in the true  proverb has happened to them,  The dog turns back to his own vomit, and the  bathed sow returns to wallow in the mire.’ (2 Pt 2:22).  The point is  that unbelievers who reject the gift of rebirth and eternal life and possess the  only physical, like animals instead of spiritual life, will return to their old  sinful and immoral habits and should therefore be avoided.

Question: But what does Jesus mean when He tells the  Christian (1) not to give what is holy to dogs and (2) not to throw our pearls  before swine?  Hint: “holy food” for the covenant people were the  sacrifices offered to Yahweh which He graciously shared with His people in a  sacred meal (i.e., Lev 7:1-6, 11-15, 19b-21; 22:1-9).  Dogs and pigs were  classified as “unclean.”   To what does Jesus compare a pearl in Matthew 13:45-46?

  1. “Holy food” to the Old Covenant people was food offered in sacrifice to Yahweh that the faithful or the priests were permitted to eat.  Pigs and dogs were classified as “unclean” food not fit to eat or to offer in sacrifice.
  2. Any sensible person would not give pearls to pigs. Pigs, not appreciating their value, would probably destroy the pearls and might even in their wrath assault the giver.  Jesus will later compare a valuable pearl to the Kingdom and by extension to the Gospel message of salvation.

With the exception of a holocaust or whole burnt offering  (the compulsory Tamid sacrifice and all voluntary whole burnt offerings made by  individuals), all the sacrifices were “holy food” eaten either by the priests  and their families (sin sacrifices) or by the covenant community as in the case  of the Passover sacrifice and the Toda sacrifices.  A member of the  covenant would never give such food, even the scraps, to the unclean dogs.   Like the definition of “holy food” in the Old Covenant, the Church fathers  taught that in this passage that which is holy referred to the “holy  food” of the New Covenant communion “the Eucharist.  It was the Church’s  teaching that only those made “clean” in the blood of the Lamb could receive the  “holy food” of the Eucharist.  The unbeliever, not discerning the nature of  the sacrament as the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ would distain the  holy gift and therefore should not be allowed to partake of the sacrament.   The Church’s oldest catechism entitled “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,”  more commonly known by the Greek word for “teaching” as the Didache,  adopts this interpretation.  In the middle of the section on the  Eucharistic prayer (Didache, 9.1-10:6), the Didache reads: Let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist,  but those baptized into the name of the Lord; this too, the saying of the Lord  is applicable:  Give not that which is holy to the dogs’ (Didache, 9.5).

The pearls may be linked to Jesus’ later parable of the  “Pearl of great value” in Matthew 13:46 in which the pearl is the Kingdom of  Heaven, or by extension the Gospel message of salvation.  But we are  commanded to actively and indiscriminately share the message of salvation with  unbelievers so Jesus could not be telling us not to waste the Gospel on  sinners.  But perhaps the “swine” aren’t simply the sinners or unbelievers  but those who have persistently and belligerently rejected the Gospel of Jesus  Christ and the gift of salvation, preferring to remain “unclean” like swine and  dogs “the Christian apostates of St. Peter’s teaching in 2 Peter 2:22 (see  quotation above).

Matthew 7:7-12 ~ Jesus teaches about the  effectiveness of our prayers to the Father and our obligations to others
7 “Ask and it will be  given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  8 For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks finds; and to  the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  9 Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of  bread, 10 or a snake when he asks for a fish?  11 If you then, who are wicked, know how to give  good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good  things to those who ask him.  12 Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.  This is the Law and  the prophets. 

It is natural that Jesus should move in His homily from the  relationship of the Christian with brothers and sisters within the faith  community to the relationship of the Christian with God the Father.  He  wants His disciples to understand that living the Christian duty of righteous  behavior is much too difficult without the divine grace of our heavenly Father.   Addressing the effectiveness of prayer to the Father, Jesus does not put any  restrictions on prayer.  St. Jerome commenting on this passage notes: It  is written, to everyone who asks it will be given; so, if it is not given to  you, it is not given to you because you do not ask; so, ask and you will receive (Jerome, Commentary of Matthew, 7).

Question: Even though prayer is infallible, we are not  infallible.  If Jesus says prayer is as easy as asking and “it will be  given to you,” why is it that sometimes God’s answer to our prayers is “no” or  “be patient”?
Answer: Our petition may be delayed or denied because:

  1. Our personal dispositions are not righteous because of personal sin.
  2. What we have asked for is not a righteous and unselfish request.
  3. Because now is not the time for us to receive such a petition.

Jesus has already warned us against the sin of hypocrisy in  prayer and has already given us His own model prayer in the Lord’s Prayer.   Now He encourages His disciples to pray by giving some commands and some very  loving promises.  In Matthew 7:7-8 Jesus gives three direct commands and  three promises if one follows these commands in connection to how we should  pray.

Question: What are the three commands?
Answer: Ask, seek, and knock.

Question: What are the three promises we are to expect  if we follow these commands?
Answer: The promise is expressed in three statements:  “everyone who asks receives”, “the one who seeks finds” and “to the one who  knocks, the door will be opened.”

  Ask everyone who asks receives
  Seek the one who seeks finds
  Knock to the one who knocks, the door will be opened

Question: What door?  Quote the significant  passages.  See Mt 3:13-17 and Rev 3:8; 20-21; 4:1; CCC 536 and 1026.
Answer: The door to heaven and eternal life which had  been closed since the Fall and had not been opened until the coming of the  Christ:

  • After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove (and) coming upon him (Mt 3:16).
  • I know your works; behold, I have left an open door before you, which no one can close (Rev 3:8).
  • Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, (then) I will enter his house and dine with him and he with me.  I will give the victor the right to sit with me on my throne, as I myself first won the victory and sit with my Father on his throne (Rev 3:20-21).
  • After this I had a vision of an open door to heaven, and I heard the trumpet like voice that had spoken to me before, saying, “Come up here and I will show you what must happen afterwards” (Rev 4:1).

Jesus illustrates His promise in another parable in Matthew 7:9-11 of a child coming to a father with a request, something with which  everyone hearing the sermon can relate “everyone having been either a child or a  parent themselves.

Question: What are the contrasts in this parable?   What is the relationship between the bread and the stone and the fish and the  snake and what is the point?  Hint: the fish is a smooth, scaleless fish  called a barbut that is found in the Sea of Galilee and its appearance is  somewhat like a snake.
Answer: The contrasts are between a stone and a round  loaf of bread, between a snake and the fish without scales, and between the  unrighteous father and the heavenly Father:

  Contrast in the parable of Matthew 7:9-11
  Loaf of bread   Stone
  Fish without scales   Snake
  Heavenly Father   Unrighteous father

The loaf of bread and a round stone or the fish without  scales and the snake look somewhat alike, but they are not the same; one is  definitely better for a child than the other.

The stone and the round loaf of bread and the smooth snake  and the smooth fish are somewhat similar in shape and in the case of the fish  and snake are similar in substance, but one is obviously better to give a child  then the other.  The point is that even the unrighteous know the difference  between what is good parenting and what is not good; therefore, can you trust  your Heavenly Father to give you the best gift when you pray, even if you don’t  know yourself which gift is best?  It is interesting that the force of this  parable lies in the contrast rather than in the comparison between the Father  who is God and the human father.  Jesus acknowledges that even the  unrighteous can perform good acts when He make this statement: If you then,  who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more  will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.

Question: Why does Jesus call His listeners “wicked”?   Isn’t He speaking to His disciples who are righteous men who have made the  choice to follow Him?
Answer: Since the Fall of our original parents and our  inherited tendency to sin, that is what we are in the family of Adam, the  “wicked” who are lost in original sin and who have inherited the tendency to  sin.

Because of the human condition, even when humans are doing  good and following nobler instincts like good parenting they cannot escape the  designation “wicked.”   It is only when we are reborn as God’s  children that, through the sanctifying grace of Jesus’ sacrifice, that we can  live as the “good,” holy sons and daughters of God.

Question: How does Jesus sum up the teachings of the  Law of Moses and the teachings of the Prophets “in other words the core teaching  of the entire content of Sacred Scripture “as it addresses our obligation to  others and the love we should show them in Matthew 7:12 (also see Lk 6:31)?   What do we call this “rule” of behavior?
Answer: In this verse, which has come to be known as  the “Golden Rule,” Jesus sets the standard of behavior for Christians when He  says “to do to others whatever you would have them do to you.”

In the literal Greek text this rule is prefaced by the Greek  word oun, meaning “therefore” or “so,” indicating that this rule refers  back to the previous verse and implies that if God the Father is good to all His  children who seek Him in prayer, then His children must exhibit the same  goodness to others.  It is a fact that God’s own love is one of the “good  things” He gives us through God the Holy Spirit in answer to our prayers.   Such love is certainly beyond human will or understanding and is only possible  through the divine grace of God our Father.

This rule, however, is not to be interpreted superficially as  a “tit for tat” obligation in which we do a certain good to another with the  expectation that they do the same or one better for us in return.  Instead,  the obligation is that we should do what is good unconditionally and in this way  we serve God and bring His justice to our fellow man.  In Tobit 4:5-6, the  saintly father Tobit instructs his son Tobias, saying “Through all your days,  my son, keep the Lord in mind, and suppress every desire to sin or to break his  commandments.  Perform good works all the days of your life, and do not  tread the paths of wrongdoing.  For if you are steadfast in your service,  your good works will bring success, not only to you, but also to all those who  live uprightly.”

Question: How does Jesus define this rule of Christian  conduct again in John 13:34-35?
Answer: Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment:  love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one  another.  This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have  love for one another.”

Note: Biblical critics point out that this rule of conduct is  not unique to the New Testament and can be found in similar forms in the  writings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius, in the writings of the Greek  Stoics, in the Book of Tobit in the Old Testament (Tobit 4:15), and even in the  Jewish Talmud.  However, these similar rules of behavior are always  expressed in the negative and not in the positive command used by Jesus in Matthew 7:12, which is more demanding “”to do” requires more effort that to “not  do.”  The other literary examples of this rule only require inaction  where as Jesus’ command is to actively “do good.”  For example, Rabbi Hillel  taught: What is hateful to you, do not do to anyone else.  This is the  whole law; all the rest is only commentary (Talmud: Shabbath,  31a).

This final section of Jesus homily in verses 13-29 is  composed of a series of antitheses which contrasts the choice between living in  obedience to the teachings of Jesus and going one’s own way:

  • The Narrow Gate/Path verses the Wide Gate/Broad Path
  • The False Prophets verses the True Disciple
  • The Wise Man and the House Built Upon The Rock verses the House Built on Sand and the Fool

Matthew 7:13-14: The Narrow Gate and Narrow Path verses  the Wide Gate and the Broad Path
Jesus continued His teaching by saying: 13 Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is  wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through  it are many.  14 How narrow the  gate and constricted the road that leads to life.  And those who find it  are few.”

From the beginning of God’s relationship with man, through  the gift of free will, man has always had the choice between two paths: to  travel the path of obedience to God or to go one’s own way.  Moses spoke of  the two ways in his last homily to the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 30:15-20 in choosing the path of life in obedience to the commandments of the  Lord or the path that leads to death, and the Psalmist wrote: The LORD  watches over the Way of the Just, but the Way of the wicked leads to ruin  (Ps 1:6).  In fact, in the early Church, before the name “Christian”  was applied to believers at the Church of Antioch in Syria, the followers of  Jesus were referred to as the followers of “The Way” (Acts 9:2) and the same  name was applied to Christians in the Church’s early Catechism, called the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, also known as the Didache (see  articles 1-6).

In this teaching there are 3 definite, inescapable choices  each of us must make.  The choice between:

  • Two ways or paths: The hard, less traveled way/path which  is entered through the narrow gate, and the easier, more popular wide way/path.
  • Two gates: The wide gate leading to the more popular and  seemingly easy way/path and the narrow gate leading to the harder and less  traveled way/path.
  • Two destinations: Eternal damnation or eternal life.

Question: What key word is given as a command as well  as an invitation?
Answer: “Enter!”

Question: Who or what is the gate and the path [or  way]?  See John 10:7-9 and John 14:6.
Answer: Jesus the Messiah.

Question: How “narrow” is the gate that leads to the  narrow, less traveled path?  See Matthew 19:24 (also found in Mark 10:25  and Luke 18:25).  What does Jesus tell us about this narrow door in Luke  13:24?
Answer: For some of us it can be as narrow as the eye  of a needle!  In Luke 13:24 Jesus says: “Strive to enter through the  narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong  enough.”  We cannot force our way into heaven for Jesus said, “I am  the way, and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except  through me”(Jn 14:6).

Question: What contrast is Jesus making in this  passage?  How does free will enter into our decision?  What is the  inescapable choice each of us must make?
Answer: Everyone must choose between two paths in  life; the choice is entirely ours.  The wide path is the way of sin.   It seems appealing at first and calls for no standard of conduct.  It is  the easier, and therefore the more traveled path, but it leads to eternal  punishment.  The other choice is the narrow gate and a less traveled,  harder path, but this path leads to eternal salvation.

Question: What makes the less traveled, narrow path  harder?  What is the faithful Christian who chooses this path carrying  across the threshold of the Narrow Gate?  See Matthew 10:38; 16:24; Mark 8:34; 10:21; Luke 9:23; and 14:27.
Answer: He carries the Cross of Jesus of Nazareth.

Question: What is it that the righteous Christian  leaves behind before traveling the more difficult terrain of the Narrow Path?   What is it you won’t need or won’t be helpful to you on this lifetime faith  journey?
Answer: When one travels a difficult path it is  necessary to divest oneself of all unessential baggage.  In this case  divest yourself of materialism, pride, self-centeredness and hypocrisy.

The metaphor of the two paths is also found in the Didachein Articles 1-6.  Notice the references to Scripture passages as you read  these instructions from the first catechism:

  • Two Ways there are, one of Life and one of Death, and there is a great difference between the Two Ways.  Now, the Way of Life is this: first, love the God who made you; secondly, your neighbor as yourself: do not do to another what you do not wish to be done to yourself.  The lesson of these words is as follows: bless those that curse you, and pray for your enemies; besides, fast for those that persecute you.  For what thanks do you deserve when you love those that love you?  Do not the heathen do as much?  For your part, love those that hate you; in fact, have no enemy… (Article 1-3)
  • The Way of Death is this: First of all, it is wicked and altogether accursed: murders, adulteries, lustful desires, fornications, thefts, idolatries, magical arts, sorceries, robberies, false testimonies, hypocrisy, duplicity, fraud, pride, malice, surliness, covetousness, foul talk, jealousy, rashness, haughtiness, false pretensions, the lack of the fear of God.  It is the way of the persecutors of the good, haters of the truth, lovers of falsehood; of men ignorant of the reward for right living, not devoted to what is good or to just judgment, intent upon not what is good but what is evil… (Article 5).
  • See that no man leads you astray from this Way of the Teaching, since any other teaching takes you away from God.  Surely, if you are able to bear the Lord’s yoke in its entirety, you will be perfect; if you are not able, then do what you can…. (Article 6).

Matthew 7:15-23 ~ The False Prophet verses the  True Disciple
Jesus said: 15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath  are ravenous wolves.  16 By  their fruits you will know them.  Do people pick grapes from thornbushes,  or figs from thistles?  17 Just  so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.  18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a  rotten tree bear good fruit.  19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the  fire.  20 So by their fruits you will know them.”

The reference to thorns and thistles call to mind the  judgment against Adam and the curse of the ground after the Fall: Thorns and  thistles shall it bring forth to you, as you eat of the plants of the field, by  the sweat of your face … (Gen 3:18).

False prophets pose a treat through their false teachings.   They distort the true teaching of the message of the Gospel of salvation and  make it difficult to find the entrance to the narrow gate.  Therefore, it  is logical that Jesus should warn the faithful about the danger of believing  false prophets immediately following His teaching about the two gates, ways and  destinations.  False prophets are dangerous because they are deceptive.   Posing as legitimate prophets and teachers they are harder to detect than the  “dogs” and “pigs” of verse 6 who are outwardly hostile to the message of  salvation.  The false prophet puts on the guise of the righteous but is in  fact a “wolf” with an agenda among the sheep of the Shepherd.

In the Old Testament, God’s prophet Jeremiah warned the  covenant people of the dangers of false prophets who lead the people astray.   Please read Jer 23:9-40.

Question: According to Jeremiah what are the  characteristics of a false prophet?

  1. Their impiety led the people astray
  2. They fill the people with vain hopes
  3. They lie to the people, speaking of their own visions that are not from God

St. Jerome identified false prophets in the New Covenant  Church as heretics within the ranks of the faithful who appear pious but who in  fact do not teach Jesus’ doctrine and instead have their own peculiar doctrine  influenced by the world and not faithful to the teachings of Christ (Jerome,Commentary on Matthew, 7).  St. John Chrysostom identified the false  prophet as anyone who appears to be virtuous but who is “acting a part” to lead  the righteous astray (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew).

In Matthew 7:15-20 the contrast between the false and genuine  prophets is also a contrast between what one says and what one does.

Question: Who then is the genuine Prophet?  See Dt 18:21-22; Mt 10:41 and 23:34.
Answer: A genuine prophet is a righteous Christian  disciple who speaks the truth in the name of Jesus when he proclaims the Gospel  and is willing to endure suffering and to even give up his life in defense of  the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Question: How does Jesus use animals to characterize  the false prophet from the genuine Christian prophet in verse 15?
Answer: The false prophet comes as a wolf in sheep’s  clothing. He looks like a “sheep”/faithful believer but in his heart he is a  ravenous wolf.

The false prophet is not obedient to the teachings of Jesus  and supports his own interpretation of the Gospel.  He is a liar who charms  by his false display of piety while pursuing his own selfish ends. In Matthew 24:4 Jesus warns the Church, saying “Take care that no one deceives you,  because many will come using my name and saying, I am the Christ,’ and they will  deceive many.”

St. Jude’s letter to the universal Church is entirely devoted  to warning the faithful against the teaching of false prophets.  He begins  with his reason for writing: Beloved, although I was making every effort to  write to you about our common salvation, I now feel a need to write to encourage  you to contend for the faith that was once for all handed down to the holy ones.   For there have been some intruders, who long ago were designated for this  condemnation, godless persons, who pervert the grace of our God into  licentiousness and who deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (Jude verses 3-4). And he closes his letter with the exhortation:  But  you, beloved, remember the words spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord  Jesus Christ, for they told you,  In [the] last time there will be scoffers who  will live according to their own godless desires.’  These are the ones who  cause divisions; they live on the natural plane, devoid of the Spirit.  But  you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy  Spirit.  Keep yourselves in the love of God and wait for the mercy of our  Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life (verses 17-21).

Question: Who was admitted into Jesus’ inner circle  that was a “wolf” “a false disciple?
Answer: Judas Iscariot.

Question: How does Jesus tell us to distinguish the  false prophet from the genuine Christian in verse 16?
Answer: They are distinguished by the “fruits” or  works they produce.

Question: In this passage, Jesus makes a series  of contrasts between the false prophet and true disciple concerning the “fruit”  they bear; what are these contrasts?

True Prophet/disciple False Prophet
  Grapes   Thorn bushes
  Figs   Thistles
  Good tree/Good fruit   Rotten tree/rotten fruit

Question: What is the contrast between these three  metaphors compared to the teaching of Jesus Christ, the true Prophet?
Answer: Grapes, figs and good fruit are all good for  us as physical nourishment and will produce a healthy body just as the faithful  teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ will produce a healthy spiritual body  that will produce the good works of God working through the obediently faithful  Christian.  However, false teaching, like thorns, thistles, and rotten  fruit, are not nourishing physically or spiritually and will produce bad health  as the promotion of false teaching produces bad works.

Jesus will return to the metaphor of the rotten tree bearing  rotten fruit contrasted with the good and fruitful tree several times during His  three year ministry (Mt 21:18-22, 33-46; Mk 11:12-14, 20-24; Lk 13:6-9; John 15:1-2).  The symbol of the fruitful tree or vine held special significance  for the Old Covenant Church, especially in the books of the prophets (see Is 5:1-7; Jer 2:21; 12:10; Ez 15:1-8; 17:3-10; 19:10-14; Ho 9:16; 10:1).   Throughout the books of the prophets the fruitful tree or vine was a symbol of  faithful Israel while the barren tree or vine or the tree or vine bearing wild  grapes or rotten fruit was a symbol of an apostate Covenant people who do not  bear the works of God.

Question: In Matthew 7:19 Jesus uses a metaphor to  describe what will happen to the tree bearing rotten fruit.  What is the  symbolism in this metaphor?
Answer: The rotten tree will be thrown into the  fire/the false prophet will be doomed to the eternal fire of Gehenna.

Throughout His ministry Jesus will teach that faith must be  evidenced by the works of God working through us.  “Faith alone” or “faith  based on false teaching” will not produce candidates for the Kingdom of Heaven  (see the parable of the Unfruitful Servant in Mt 25:14-30).  The words  “faith alone” only appears in sacred Scripture in one verse and no other, and  that verse is found in James 2:24.  Beginning in 2:14 St. James warns My  brothers what good is it to profess faith without practicing it?  Such  faith has no power to save one, has it? and in 2:24 he writes, You must  perceive that a person is justified by his works and not by faith alone.

Jesus continues in this theme of judgment

Matthew 7:21-23 ~ The True Disciple.
Jesus said: 21 Not everyone who says to me,  Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but  only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.  22 Many will say to me on that day,  Lord, Lord,  did we not prophesy in your name?  Did we not drive out demons in your  name?  Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them solemnly,  I never knew you.  Depart  from me, you evildoers.’

In Scripture “to know” someone refers to either intimate sexual  knowledge or to covenant family relationships.  It is not that God/Jesus  did not know that person existed, but that person did not live in obedience to  the covenant union that he/she was invited to share in the life of Christ.

Question: What is Jesus’ message in 7:21-23 concerning  those hypocrites who only play at piety?  Who is it that will enter the  gates of heaven?  Also see Jesus’ teaching on the subject of the Last  Judgment in Mt 25:31-45.
Answer:  On Judgment Day the morally corrupt and false  teachers will hear Jesus say: “I never knew you. Depart from me, you  evildoers.” Entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven is only for those who  obediently do the will of the Father.

At the end our lives each of us will face an individual (also  called the “particular”) judgment.  At that time whether our lives were a  success or a failure will be judged as we stand before the great white judgment  throne of God with Jesus as our advocate.  At this judgment each of us will  be rewarded according to our faith and works (see CCC# 1021-22; 1 Cor 3:12-15). 

The conclusion of the  Sermon on the Mount

Matthew 7:24-28 ~ The Contrast of the Two Foundations and  the Importance of Works of Faith
Jesus said: 24 Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise  man who built his house on rock.  25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house.   But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.  26 And everyone who listens to these words of  mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, the floods came,  and the winds blew and buffeted the house.  And it collapsed and was  completely ruined.” 28 When Jesus  finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught  them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

Question: In Matthew 7:15-23 the emphasis was on  “saying” and “doing” but what is the contrast now?
Answer: In verses 24 the emphasis is on  “listening/hearing and doing.”

The true Christian is the one who listens to the words of  Jesus and does what He tells them as in the prophecy God gave Moses in Deuteronomy 18:18-19: I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among  their kinsmen, and will put my words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that  I command him.  If any man will not listen to my words which he speaks  in my name, I myself will make him answer for it.  The True  prophet/disciple is one who listens to the words Jesus speaks and obeys them.   Jesus told his disciples: “The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I  know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life; they will never  be lost and no one will ever steal them from my hand” (Jn 10:27-28, New  Jerusalem; also see Mt 17:5; Mk 9:7; Lk 9:35).

There is also another contrast; this time it is between the  one who built his house on the rock as opposed to the one who built his house on  the sand.

Question: Who is like the man who built on the rock?   See 7:24
Answer: The one who listens to Jesus’ words anddoes what He says.

Question: What is the fate of those who refuse to  listen to the words of Jesus and therefore fail to do what the Messiah tells  them?
Answer: They will be like one who built the foundation  of his house on unstable sand.

Question: What happened to the house built on a  foundation of sand?
Answer: It collapsed.

Contrasts in this teaching:

The Faithful Disciple The False Disciple
  Listens and hears = does the will of God   Does not listen = does not fulfill God’s will
  Builds on Rock which lasts forever   Builds on sand which collapses

Question: Who is the “man” who built His house upon  the rock? Who is the “rock” and what is the “house”?  See Mt 16:13-20 and Jn 1:42 (Kephas is the Aramaic word for “rock” and the Greek word is petra but  is rendered “petros” if applied as a masculine name).
Answer: The Man is Jesus, the rock is the Apostle  Simon who Jesus renamed Kephas/Peter (meaning “rock” in Aramaic/Greek), and the  house is the Church!

The Temple in Jerusalem was built upon the rock of El  Shakrah [Arabic] or the eb(v)en s(sh)etiyah in Hebrew, the holy “rock  of foundation” on Mt. Moriah upon which the holy covenant name of God was  engraved.  But the New Covenant Temple is the body of every believer in  whom the Holy Spirit dwells with the name of Christ engraved upon each Christian  heart, and the Catholic Church, which is Body of Christ, is built upon the firm  foundation “the rock that is Peter!  “The Rock” is a title in the Old  Testament which was used for God and for the pre-incarnate Christ.  St.  Paul identifies the pre-incarnate Jesus as “the Rock” in the New Testament (i.e.  see Deuteronomy 32:4; 15; 18; 30; 31; 1 Corinthians 10:4).  In Matthew 6:16, along with His power and authority, Jesus gives the Apostle Simon His  title of “rock” as a sign of that authority just as He also gives Simon-Peter  the keys of His kingdom like the prime ministers [vicars] of the old Davidic  kings (Is 22:20-22)!

Matthew 7:28 ~ When  Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he  taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

The word “crowds” probably refers to the 70 disciples who  stayed with Jesus on the mountain and from whom He chose the 12 Apostles (Lk 6:12-13).  After His finished addressing His disciples, He came down from  the mountain (Mt 8:1; Lk 6:17) and gave His “Sermon on the Plain” to the people  waiting below the summit of the mountain (Lk 6:17-7:1).

Question: Why were the people “astonished at His  teaching”?
Answer: Jesus taught them with “authority”; He taught  in harmony with God’s teaching in the Sacred Scriptures and not like other  teachers who injected their own interpretation of Scripture.

This is the same way we should judge those who teach us.   Does their teaching agree with the entire deposit of Sacred Scripture or do they  take Scripture out of context and twist verses to conform to their own  understanding.  If the interpretation of one passage of Scripture  contradicts another passage, that interpretation is in error.


Question: What verse would you identify as the central  theme of the Sermon on the Mount?
Answer: The central theme of the Sermon on the Mount  is summarized in Matthew 5:48: So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is  perfect.

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount His statement in Matthew 5:48  is a key summation of the whole teaching in His first great homily.  In the  Gospels this Greek word,  teleios [tel’-i-os], meaning “complete, of  full age, perfect” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance # 5046), occurs only 3  times, twice in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:48, So be perfect,  just as your heavenly Father is perfect and once in Matthew 19:21 in  Jesus’ call of discipleship to the rich young man seeking eternal life: Jesus  said to him,  If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give  to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow  me.’

It is important to understand that  the word “perfect” in Matthew 5:48 does not refer to sinless or moral  perfection. Instead it indicates spiritual perfection “the completeness or  wholeness of men and women united with God in the state of grace and divine  son/daughter-ship first enjoyed in the Garden of Eden.  This is the goal  for which we strive “to live our Christian lives in a state of grace empowered  through the Sacraments and living the Beatitudes daily in our walk of faith.   This standard of perfection or completeness is, of course, impossibility without  the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, but it is the standard to which Jesus  has called us.

In His call to faithfulness in  living the Beatitudes and the expanded teaching that followed in the Sermon on  the Mount, Jesus identifies the righteous believer who lives the New Covenant  Law as one who loves God and exhibits that love by:

  • Conforming to the will of God (Mt 5:1, 5, 10, 20; 6:25-34).
  • Obedience to God’s commands appointed to man in the moral Law of the Sinai Covenant and the love-intensified Law of the New Covenant (Mt 5:17-20; 47-37).
  • Faithfulness to the Law as an interior commitment that is expressed in the actions of our lives even when that commitment brings us persecution (Mt 5:10-12; 43-48; 6:33).
  • Included in the actions that reflect faithfulness to the Law must be acts of peace, mercy and charity without thought of compensation (Mt 5:7, 9, 15-16; 38-42; 6:1-4).
  • Complete obedience to the commands of almsgiving, prayer, self-control, and our Christian responsibility to bring the light of Christ to a world in darkness (Mt 5:14-16; 5:21-26; 6:2, 5-18; 7:7-11).

Jesus will continue to teach on these major themes throughout  His ministry.

CCC# 2608: From the Sermon on the Mount onwards,  Jesus insists on conversion of heart: reconciliation with one’s brother before  presenting an offering on the altar, love of enemies. And prayer for  persecutors, prayer to the Father in secret, not heaping up empty phrases,  prayerful forgiveness from the depths of the heart, purity of heart, and seeking  the Kingdom before all else.  This filial conversion is entirely directed  to the Father.

St. John-Marie Vianney expressed our call to love and serve  God in his humble declaration I love you O my God, and my only desire is to  love you until the last breath of my life.  I love you, O my infinitely  loveable God, and I would rather die loving you, than live without loving you.   I love you, Lord, and the only grace I ask is to love you eternally…My God, if  my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love you, I want my heart to repeat  it to you as often as I draw breath  (St. John Marie Vianney, as quoted  in CCC 2658).   In the end the entire Law is based on a response to love;  our love for God in Christ and how we diffuse His love to others.  It is  this love that we are asked to give freely and without thought of compensation  to our brothers and sisters in the family of humanity.  For in God’s great  symphony of life, faith and love must be lived in a harmony of community as well  as sung by a single voice.

Questions for discussion:

Question:  Jesus did not come to do away with our earthly struggles and suffering but came  instead to unite our suffering to His.  Even in times of trial and suffering  what comfort can you receive from claiming these verses: Mt 28:18; Gen 50:20 and Rom 8:28?

Question: What does St. Paul identify as fruits of the  Spirit in Galatians 5:16-17 that will be harvest of right conduct from the  righteous disciple?

Question: What instruction does Jesus give us  concerning correction of a brother or sister within the faith community?   What are the 3 levels of correction and if those measures fail what is the final  solution?  Keep in mind that the final judgment is meant to be a final  measure in order to bring about reconciliation and redemption.  How would  you go about carrying out such a correction or have you ever had such an  experience that you would like to share? See Mt 18:15-20.

Question: What does sound teaching of the Gospel of  Jesus Christ produce as opposed to false teaching according to St. Paul?   See 1 Tim 1:4-5; 4:7; 6:3-5; 2 Tim 2:16-18, 23; 3:16-17; Tit 1:11; 3:9; and in Jude verses 3-4, 16-25.

Question: We are encouraged to look for righteousness  and love in our teachers and to reject the teachings of the unrighteous and  unloving.  But to these moral tests we must add a doctrinal test to ensure  that the teacher’s message is in accord with the original apostolic instruction  passed from Christ to the Apostles and from them to their disciples, the first  Bishops of the Church, and finally down to us in the Magisterium today.   How does the Apostle John encourage us to discern true teaching from false in 1 Jn 2:22-24; 4:2-3, 6; and 2 Jn verses 7-9?

Question: In the writings of the Fathers of the  Church, they were fond of repeating this saying: Born once, die twice; born  twice, die once.  What did they mean by this statement?  See Jn 3:3, 5; Jm 1:18; 1 Pt 1:23 and Rev. 20:6, 11-15 (especially verse 14); 21:8.


1Adelphos is the only word used for “brother” in the  Greek New Testament.  Therefore, when certain of Jesus’ kinsmen are  referred to in the New Testament as “brothers” of the Lord it cannot be assumed  the meaning is “blood-brothers” born from Mary.  In Hebrew and in Aramaic,  there was no distinction between kinsmen who were siblings or cousins or even  “brothers” within the bond of the covenant (see Mt 12:46-49 and 13:56 and  compare with Mt 23:8; Acts 1:16; 2:29, 37; 21:17, 20; and 22:1 where the only  word used is adelphos “even for the Apostles and disciples).   Covenants create family bonds and everyone within the covenant is considered a  kinsman.  When Scripture refers to the “brothers” of Jesus, the Church has  always taught that these “brothers/sisters are kinsmen/women who are  either cousins or half-brothers/sisters (CCC 502).

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