Discourse #1: The Sermon on the Mount Continued
God’s Plan for a Transformed Heart and Life
Merciful Heavenly Father,
You took pity upon a world torn and bleeding from the ravages of sin “a world desperate for deliverance through the grace of a pure and holy God and a world hungry for Your love and Your redemption. In Your great love for us, You sent your Son “He who spread open His arms to embrace Your poor lost children as the Roman soldiers nailed His hands to the Cross. He allowed His Body to be torn open so Your children might receive nourishment on their journey through this life with the promise that Your Son’s very flesh and blood would give the grace that was needed to reach eternal life in the next. Your generosity and mercy know no bounds, Lord, and all You ask is that we show the same love and mercy to our brothers and sisters in the human family. Help us to sing the love song of Christ’s Passion and to show His mercy to those most in need of love. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen
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Now we know that what the law says is addressed to those under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world stand accountable to God, since no human being will be justified [righteous] in his sight by observing the law; for through the law comes consciousness of sin.
Review of the last lesson:
BLESSED ARE THEY WHO MOURN
|As we yield to spiritual childhood, admitting poverty of spirit and kneeling in His presence, the more clearly we see God. The more clearly we see God the more we become aware of our imperfections. We become humbled in His presence and we feel the burden of our sins. The result is that we mourn our sins. Repentance and genuine sorrow for our sins purifies us. To mourn sin is a natural outflow of surrender to God through “poverty of spirit.”|
FOR THEY WILL BE COMFORTED
|Not only does the Holy Spirit comfort us in our sorrow and repentance but through living the Sacraments of our faith He gives us the strength to resist sin and the strength to stand against sin in our community and in the world. We bear our suffering with a spirit of atonement, reconciliation and love, and the result is comfort and strength.|
BLESSED ARE THE MEEK
|Christian “meekness” is not weakness. It is based on humility which is expressed in the New Testament as the supernatural quality that is the outgrowth of a renewed nature. This renewal can only come when we surrender to God and seek His divine will in our lives. It is this third step: “blessed are the meek,” which renews us and places us as a useful tool in the hands of the Master of the universe.|
FOR THEY WILL INHERIT THE LAND
|No longer does Satan have the power to dominate us because we have been reborn through Christian baptism into the family of God. We belong to the God who created and dominates the earth. As His children and Christ’s heirs we inherit the earth and the universal kingdom He has established on earth to lead the nations into the family of God “the Catholic (universal) Church.|
“BLESSED ARE THEY WHO HUNGER AND THIRST FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS”
The Wisdom of God personified in the Old Testament: Approach me, you who desire me, and take your fill of my fruits, for memories of me are sweeter than honey, inheriting me is sweeter than the honeycomb. They who eat me will hunger for more; they who drink me will thirst for more.
Sirach 24:18-20 (in the Old Testament wisdom was defined as knowledge of God)
St. John’s vision of the righteous elect standing before the throne of God: Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” I said to him, My lord, you are the one who knows.’ He said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they stand before God’s throne and worship him day and night in his temple. The one who sits on the throne will shelter them. They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun nor any heat strike them. For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears turned to their prayers…
1 Peter 3:12
Matthew 5:6 ~ Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied [filled]. The Greek word chortazo means to gorge (supply food in abundance), to feed, fill, satisfy (see Thayer’ Greek-English Dictionary, page 670).
Denying our own “self-sufficient spirit,” we yield to God in “poverty of spirit,” acknowledging that we need Him in our lives and in childlike faith we move forward to take our place at the foot of His throne. As we draw closer to God, like the prophet Isaiah (Is 6:5-6) we become aware of our sinful nature; we mourn our sins and the sins of the world. In our sincere repentance, Christ atones for our sins and by God’s grace we are purified and restored to fellowship with Him. Our desire is now to surrender our lives as we experience spiritual renewal. We strive to submit ourselves to His will, offering our lives as useful tools in the hands of the Master of the universe. As a result of yielding to Him in meekness and humility, we want to be more like Him “our souls hunger and thirst for righteousness just as our physical bodies need food and drink for us to survive physically. The fourth Beatitude is a pivotal step in our spiritual journey. In the fourth Beatitude we move from what we need to give to God to the miracle of what God plans to give to us.
Jesus’ definition of the righteous believer in the fourth beatitude is a person who “hungers and thirsts” to live “rightly” according to the will of God for his life. In St. Jerome’s commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew, Jerome wrote that Jesus is not suggesting we have a legalistic “letter of the law” desire for righteousness but that we should ardently seek righteousness as necessary to our spiritual life as food and water are necessary for our physical life (Jerome, Commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew 5.6). In the Law of the New Covenant, Jesus has raised the bar in His demand for “rightness” with God “it is not enough to merely submit with a regimented obedience to the Old Covenant Law in outward acts as the Pharisees interpreted the path to salvation. In the New Covenant we must actively, diligently, and relentlessly seek internal and external righteousness as though our very lives depended upon it “for indeed it does.
How did the Apostles and disciples understand Jesus’ call to righteousness? The answer is found in how “righteousness” is defined by the Holy Spirit inspired New Testament writers of Sacred Scripture. In the New Testament the Greek adjective dikaios [dik’-ah-yos], usually translated as “righteous” or “just” and the Greek noun dikaiosune [dik-ah-yos-oo-nay’], usually translated as “righteousness” but also translated as “justification,”are both defined as “the character or quality of being right” or “being just without prejudice” (Strong’s Concordance # 1342 and 1343; The Brown-Driver-Briggs Greek-English Lexicon, page 144).
How did the Old Testament prophets define “righteousness”? Please read Ezekiel 18:5-9
5 If a man is virtuous “if he does what is right and just, 6if he does not eat on the mountains, nor raise his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel; if he does not defile his neighbor’s wife, nor have relations with a woman in her menstrual period; 7 if he oppresses no one, gives back the pledge received for a debt, commits no robbery; if he gives food to the hungry and clothes the naked;8 if he does not lend at interest nor exact usury; if he holds off from evildoing, judges fairly between a man and his opponent; 9 if he lives by my statutes and is careful to observe my ordinances, that man is virtuous “he shall surely live, says the Lord GOD.
Question: How did the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel define the path to righteousness? What did the prophet mean by the phrase “he does not eat on the mountains” (Ez 18:5-6a)?
- The righteous did not worship any god but Yahweh. Ezekiel’s reference to “eating on the mountains” is a reference to partaking of ritual meals at pagan high places where sacrifice and worship was offered to false gods (Ez 18:5-6). These were meaningless and covenantaly traitorous meals.
- The righteous practiced the virtuous behavior of an obedient and faithful servant of Yahweh by fulfilling the divine will of God as laid down in the Ten Commandments and the other articles of the Law (Ez 18:5-6c, 9)
- The righteous showed kindness and mercy to the disadvantaged by letting God’s love and mercy flow out from them to those in need (Ez 18:7-8).
In summary, the Old Covenant Law showed man the path to righteousness.
The Law of the Sinai Covenant contained more than the basic Ten Commandments. The whole body of the Law is found in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. In the covenant obligations given by God to Moses in Leviticus, the covenant people are commanded: Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, AM holy; it is a command that is repeated with variations seven times (Lev 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:7,26; 21:8; and 22:33). The command to live in holiness is also understood as the path to “righteousness” “being “right” with God under the Law.
In Leviticus 19:18b and three times in Deuteronomy 6:5; 11:1and 30:6, the entire Law of the Sinai Covenant is summed up in two commands. These were the same commands that Jesus repeated to the people during His ministry, declaring them the two greatest commandments (see Mt 5:43; 22:37-40;Mk 12:29; and Lk 10:29-37).
Question: What are the two commandment summaries that embraced the entire Old Covenant Law and which are also the sum of the New Covenant Law? How were these two commandments understood by the Old Covenant people and how did Jesus intend the application of these two basic commands for the New Covenant people of God? See Lev 19:18; Dt 6:5; Mt 5:44; 22:37-39 and Mk 12:29-31; Lk 10:29-37.
Answer: The two commands contain the basic principles of the whole Mosaic Law:
- The first commandment summary: You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Lev 19:18b): Jesus sited this command as the second of the two most important commandments (Mt 22:39 and Mk 12:31). In the Old Covenant, the understanding of “neighbor” was restricted to Israelite brothers and sisters within the family of the Sinai Covenant. In Luke 10:29-37, however, Jesus extended the application of the commandment to embrace all men and women in the human family “those related by blood, those related by blood covenant, those outside of the covenant, and even enemies (Mt 5:44).
- The second commandment summary: Therefore you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength (Dt 6:5): In Matthew 22:37 Jesus quoted this commandment which was part of the Old Covenant profession of faith from Deuteronomy 6:5. The call of this commandment is to love God with an undivided heart. To love God with “heart, soul, and strength” equals loving God with the whole person. In Matthew 22:37 and Mark 12:29 Jesus cited this command as the greatest and the first commandment.
The Old Testament defined a covenant believer who strives to live in righteousness as one who loves God with his complete self (heart, soul, and strength). The righteous believer was one who demonstrated that undivided love for God by keeping the commandments of God’s Law that included demonstrating God’s love to others through acts of charity. In essence, a righteous believer totally submits his/her will to be in complete “rightness” with the will of God for their lives according to the Law. But the Law could only show the path to “rightness” with God; it could not give the gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit nor give the gift of eternal salvation (CCC 1963).
Question: What did Jesus tell the young man in Matthew 19:16-21 who asked about what “good” he could do to gain eternal life? What was the significance of this exchange?
Answer: Jesus told him “there is only One who is good,” meaning God. Then, at the end of their talk, Jesus told the young man if he wanted eternal life the young man must be willing to give up everything to follow Him. Jesus’ exchange with the young man makes it clear that the commandments of the Old Covenant Law could put one on the path to righteousness, but true righteousness and the path of eternal life can only be found in Jesus Christ.
In Old English the word “righteousness” was formally spelled as “rightwiseness,” which is more descriptive in its meaning of “right in being with God;” and in Romans 3:1-8 St. Paul uses the Greek adjective for “righteousness” to denote an attribute of God as he makes the connection between God’s righteousness/justice and His condemnation of sin.
Please read Romans 3:1-8.
1 What advantage is there then in being a Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much, in every respect. [For] in the first place, they were entrusted with the utterances of God. 3 What if some where unfaithful? Will their infidelity nullify the fidelity of God? 4Of course not! God must be true, though every human being is a liar, as it is written: “That you may be justified in your words, and conquer when you are judged.” 5 But if our wickedness provides proof of God’s righteousness, what can we say? Is God unjust, humanly speaking, to inflict his wrath? 6 Of course not! For how else is God to judge the world? 7 But if God’s truth redounds to his glory through my falsehood, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not say “as we are accused and as some claim we say “that we should do evil that good may come of it? Their penalty is what they deserve.
In this passage, St. Paul quotes the Psalms from the Greek Septuagint: though every human being is a liar (Ps 116:11) and That you may be justified in your words, and conquer when you are judged (51:6).
Question: How does Paul use the word “righteousness” in this passage? How does the use of the word in the context of St. Paul’s passage define the nature of God?
Answer: The context of St. Paul’s passage shows that “the righteousness of God” (verse 5) is defined as His covenant faithfulness, His truthfulness, and His desire to interact with all men “attributes consistent with His own nature and the covenant promises as expressed throughout Sacred Scripture.
It is St. Paul’s argument that despite Israel’s failures as a covenant people, the Old Covenant Church remained the vehicle of God’s revelation because God is righteous and He is faithful to His covenant promises. As St. Paul continues in Romans Chapter three, he discusses man’s universal bondage to sin (Rom 3:9-20), and then he addresses justification (dikaiosune) apart from the Old Covenant Law (Rom 3:19-31). St. Paul affirms that the purpose of the Old Covenant Law was to make man conscious of sin when he wrote:Now we know that what the law says is addressed to those under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world stand accountable to God, since no human being will be justified in his sight by observing the law; for through the law comes consciousness of sin (Rom 3:19-20).
Please read Romans 3:21-31 ~ Justification Through Faith in Christ Jesus
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, though testified to by the law and the prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; 23 all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. 24 They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption of Christ Jesus, 25whom God set forth as an expiation, through faith, by his blood, to prove his righteousness because of the forgiveness of sins previously committed, 26 through the forbearance of God “to prove his righteousness in the present time, that he might be righteous and justify the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 What occasion is there then for boasting? It is ruled out. On what principle, that of works? 28 No, rather on the principle of faith. For we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Does God belong to Jews alone? Does he not belong to Gentiles, too? Yes, also to Gentiles, 30 for God is one and will justify the circumcised on the basis of faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Are we then annulling the law by this faith? Of course not! On the contrary, we are supporting the law.
St. Paul uses the words dikaios and dikaiosune, translated in English as “righteousness,” “righteous,” “justified,” “will justify,” and “justification” in these verses. Between Romans 3:21-30 St. Paul uses the words “righteousness,” “righteous,” “justified”, “will justify” or “justification” nine times in verses 21, 22, 24, 25, 26 (three times), 28 and 30(English translations may not reflect the literal translation).(1)
St. Paul defends the Law as the necessary means of condemning sin but not in defining righteousness “one is not accounted as righteousness simply by living according to the “works” of the Law (Rom 3:28; also see3:19-20). In Romans 3:21-22 St. Paul writes that the righteousness of God is not defined in the Old Covenant Law but in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ: But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, though testified to by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe… But the key verse is Romans 3:25-26 where St. Paul refers to Jesus’ sacrifice as a demonstration of God’s justness: God appointed him as a sacrifice for reconciliation, through faith, by the shedding of his blood, and so showed his justness; first for the past, when sins went unpunished because he held his hand; and now again for the present age, to show how he is just and justifies everyone who has faith in Jesus.
As quoted above in verse 25, St. Paul addresses God’s righteousness as exhibited in the death of Jesus Christ: God appointed him as a sacrifice for reconciliation, through faith, by the shedding of his blood… The connection between Christ’s Passion and God’s justice/righteousness demonstrates God’s holiness which finds expression not only in His covenant faithfulness and truthfulness, but in His condemnation of sin and in His plan of redemption. We cannot be saved by our own righteousness but only through the righteousness of Jesus’ sacrifice that frees us of sin and imparts Christ’s righteousness to us as His Baptized disciples.
The same connection between righteousness, the condemnation of sin and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ found throughout the letters of the New Testament. In Romans 5:19 St. Paul writes: For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous. St. John also connects Jesus’ righteousness with the expiation of our sins: My children, I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world (1 Jn 2:1-2).
In 2 Peter 1:1-11, St. Peter continues with the same theme of man achieving true righteousness that leads to salvation through Jesus Christ. He begins his letter with the greeting (emphasis mine): Simon Peter, a slave and Apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of equal value to ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ, may grace and peace be yours in abundance through knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord (2 Pt 1:1). He continues in his opening statements with the exhortation: … do your utmost to support your faith with goodness, goodness with understanding, understanding with self-control, self-control with perseverance, perseverance with devotion, devotion with kindness to the brothers, and kindness to the brothers with love. The possession and growth of these qualities will prevent your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ from being ineffectual or unproductive. But without them, a person is blind or short sighted, forgetting how the sins of the past were washed away. Instead of this, brothers, never allow your choice or calling to waver; then there will be no danger of your stumbling, for in this way you will be given the generous gift of entry to the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pt 1:5-11).
Question: How does St. Peter identify “righteousness” in the greeting of his letter to the universal Church?
Answer: Peter identifies “righteousness” as the righteous action of God in dealing with believers whose faith is founded upon the grace of God extended to them through the sacrificial death of Jesus the Christ.
This is a key teaching in the New Testament. Righteousness as expressed in the Gospels and other books of the New Testament through the Holy Spirit inspired writers is for the most part the gracious gift (grace) of God extended to mankind whereby all who have faith in Jesus Christ as the Redeemer-Messiah are bathed in the blood of the Lamb of God and are brought into the “rightness” of their relationship with the Most Holy Trinity. “Righteousness” then for New Covenant believers is linked to Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross and to a state of grace “the grace freely given through the perfect sacrifice of “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” “the Chosen One of God” (Jn 1:29, 35).
Through Christ’s death on the Cross, mankind has been justified “the debt for sins having been paid by Christ’s sacrifice.
Question: What does the Catechism teach about our justification through Christ’s sacrifice? Summarize the main points in CCC 1989-92.
- Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man (CCC 1989).
- Justification detaches man from sin … It reconciles man with God. It frees from the enslavement to sin, and it heals (1990).
- Justification is at the same time the acceptance of God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ (1991).
- Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim … Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy (CCC 1992).
Question: Is it possible for any man or any woman, through their own human nature, to be truly righteous without Christ? Hint: Even the Virgin Mary needed a Savior; she was saved by Christ at the moment of her conception when she was conceived without sin to be prepared to be the future holy Tabernacle of God the Son (CCC 490-94).
Answer: The only “righteous” man ever born of woman was Jesus of Nazareth: Messiah, Son of God, and the King of Righteousness. It is through His sacrificial death that we are freed of sin and freed to a “righteous” rebirth into the family of God in which, empowered by the action of God the Holy Spirit through the Sacraments, we strive to continue in a “righteous” relationship with God as we hunger and thirst for Him.
“FOR THEY SHALL BE SATISFIED”
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.’ Now He calls those parties, lovers of a true and indestructible good. They will therefore be filled with that food of which the Lord Himself says, My meat is to do the will of my Father,’ which is righteousness; and with that water, of which whosoever drinketh’, as he also says, it shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life.’
St. Augustine (354-430 AD), The Sermon on the Mount, Book I, chapter II, 6
He was born as wisdom from God for us, and as justice and sanctification and redemption. He is “the bread that comes down from heaven” and “living water,” for which the great David himself thirsted.
Origen (185/200-254 AD), Fragment 83
…for they shall be satisfied. Some translations read: for they shall be filled.
This beatitude has a promise that is also a consequence if the blessing is not fulfilled. Each of the beatitudes, unlike the negative statements of the Ten Commandments, is given in a positive statement. Yet, a negative is implied if the blessing is not fulfilled. The implications of realizing this implied negative in each beatitude is much more serious when one considers what will be lost if this spiritual perfection is not achieved.
Question: What is the inferred consequence?
Answer: If we aren’t righteous, “we won’t be satisfied,” or as it is written in some translations, “we won’t be filled.”
In this promise the Greek word which is translated as “satisfied” or “filled” is chortazo [khor-tad’-zo; with the Semitic “tz” dipthong], meaning “to gorge, or to supply food in abundance; feed, fill, satisfy” (Strong’s Concordance #5526).
The inspired writer of the book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) wrote about the righteous fruits of God’s wisdom through the Old Covenant Law: Come to me, all you that yearn for me, and be filled with my fruits; you will remember me as sweeter than honey, better to have than the honeycomb. He who eats of me will hunger still, he who drinks of me will thirst for more; he who obeys me will not be put to shame, he who serve me will never fail. All this is true of the book of the Most High’s covenant, the law which Moses commanded us as an inheritance for the community of Jacob (Sir 24:18-22).
The believer’s greatest desire is to ever increase in the wisdom/knowledge of God which leads to righteousness, but according to the writer of the book of Sirach, one can ever be filled or satisfied by the righteousness that comes from the Old Covenant Law.
Question: What is the promise of this fourth beatitude concerning the righteous who seek the wisdom of God who is Christ Jesus?
Answer: Jesus Christ is the “Righteous One” who satisfies as no one else can satisfy and who fills us as no one else can fill. He has come to complete what the old Law could not fulfill!
During the Byzantine era of the early Church, a pelican piercing its breast with its beak until blood flowed to feed its thirsty young became a symbol of the sacrifice of Christ in giving us the life-giving blood that flowed from His side to nourish the Church. The carved decoration on the stone capital of a pillar in the Upper Room in Jerusalem has this depiction. In allowing the Roman soldier to pierce His side, He allowed His precious Blood to begin to flow out of His Body to nourish the children of Adam throughout the world who desired to become children of God by accepting God’s gift of salvation. His willing sacrifice is a demonstration of the self-sacrificial love Christ gave to us and the kind of love He called us to give to each other:…love one another as I have loved you (John 15:12b). The image of the Christ sacrificing Himself for the children of in the family of Adam compared to the pelican mother sacrificing herself for her young is reflected in the ancient hymn Adoro te devote: O loving Pelican! O Jesu Lord! Unclean I am but cleanse me in Thy Blood; of which a single drop, for sinners split, can purge the entire world from all its guilt (In Conversation With God,volume 5, Francis Fernandez, page 346).
In the book Applause From Heaven, author Max Lucado tells a moving story that illustrates Christ’s self-sacrificial love for mankind in a mother’s self-sacrificial love for her child. On December 7, 1988, fifty-five thousand people were victims of the worst earthquake in the history of Soviet Armenia. Susannah Petroysan and her four year old daughter, Gayane, had gone to visit Susannah’s sister who lived in an apartment on the fifth floor of a nine-story building. When the earthquake struck Susannah just had enough time to gather her daughter into her arms before the floor gave way beneath them and as the entire building collapsed mother and daughter fell into the darkness. When Susannah regained consciousness she heard her daughter crying in her arms and reaching above her head she felt a tomb-like concrete panel eighteen inches above their bodies. They were entombed in total darkness in the basement of what had been the nine story apartment building.
Hours passed without any sign of rescuers coming to their aid. Gayane began to cry incessantly that she was thirsty. As time when by, the little girl’s cries began to grow weaker until her mother realized it was likely that her child would die of dehydration before rescuers could find them. In desperation she felt around in the rubble and miraculously found a jar of blackberry jam. Hours later the jam was gone and the little girl was still crying: “Mommy I am so thirsty, please Mommy give me something to drink.” But there was no juice, no water, nor any liquids of any kind available to save the life of her child. In her desperate fear that her child was dying, she cried out to God to help her save her daughter. It was then that she realized that she did have something she could give her thirsty child. She had her own blood. It was all she had, so in her love for her child she slashed her fingers with some glass from the jam jar and she gave her daughter her very life’s blood to drink to keep her child alive. Eight days after the earthquake they were rescued. Susannah had saved her child’s life through the self-sacrificial gift of her own life’s blood.
Question: Why was the sacrificial system of the Old Covenant imperfect? What was the remedy for the imperfection of the Old Covenant? See Psalms 50:5; 51:18; Hebrews 10:4 and CCC # 1963.
Answer: Sacrifices under the Old Covenant could only offer temporary solutions for sin “only God could offer the eternal solution.
The blood of an animal was not perfect enough to remove the stain of sin from a fallen humanity. God saw mankind fallen into darkness and suffering under the wreckage of a world demolished and entombed by sin. His children were crying out under the heavy burden of a sinful world, and so He answered their cry by sending His Son to satisfy their thirst for salvation with the perfect sacrificial gift of His Son’s own life’s blood.
- In John 4:10-14 Jesus told the Samaritan woman: If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water. […] Jesus answered and said to her, Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’
- In John 7:37 Jesus promised: If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink…
- In John 6:35 and 51 Jesus’ words continue to assure us: I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst… I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.
- And in Matthew 26:28 Jesus said ... Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup gave thanks and gave it to them saying,“Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Question: How does the Eucharist impart the righteousness of Christ to the baptized believer who receives the Eucharist in a state of grace? See CCC 1391-5.
Answer: The Eucharist unites us to Christ (CCC 1391), cleanses us of past sins (CCC 1393), strengthens our response to showing God’s mercy to others (1394), and preserves us from future mortal sins (CCC 1395); thus the Eucharist imparts to us the “righteousness” of Jesus Christ.
For the sake of a humanity crushed under the burden of slavery to sin and death “a humanity thirsting for salvation “God the Son gave them, from His perfect sacrifice on the altar of the Cross, His very Blood to drink and His very Flesh to eat that they might have eternal life (Jn 6:53-58).
This is the turning point in the Beatitudes. Up to this point the focus has been on the most basic aspects of our relationship with God. Up until now the focus has been our need:
- Our need for God in our earthly struggles and our desire for heaven
- Our need for repentance
- Our need to yield ourselves in humility to God’s plan
But now the focus has been changed to our need for union with the fullness of God; therefore focus turns to Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, who fulfills of our desire for union with the fullness of God Himself in the gift of the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, the Most Holy Trinity gives Himself completely to the soul who hungers and thirsts for Him “He gives Himself completely in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. He comes to us in the miracle of Transubstantiation as the Bridegroom giving all of Himself to His Bride, the Church.
The Turning Point: The fourth step on the road to salvation and the fourth promise:
| Blessed are those who hunger
and thirst for righteousness and
seek to receive the King of
Righteousness à to be filled
by Christ in the Eucharist
Questions for group discussion:
Question: There is always warfare between the material and the spiritual “between what the world interprets as pleasurable for us and what God tells us is righteous behavior. Nothing material is inherently evil; it is the application of the material that can be used for evil and not for the good. The amount of money we have isn’t as important as our attitude toward it and the way we use it (see 1 Tim 6:10, Lk 12:48, and Mt 6:24). What is your attitude toward your money and your material possessions? What is the right application of material wealth and what is harmful? Do these things in any way come between you and your righteous walk with God?
Question: Why does Christ give Himself to us, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Most Holy Eucharist? What promise that Jesus gave in Matthew 28:20 is fulfilled in the Eucharist? What Old Testament miracle prefigured the gift of Himself that He promised in John 6:48-58 (see Ex 16:6-36; 17:1-7; 1 Cor 10:1-5) and what is the comparison between the Old Testament miracles and the miracle of the Eucharist? How are both Jesus’ humanity and His divinity part of His gift?
Answer: The Eucharist fulfills Jesus’ promise to be with us always, until the end of the age (Mt 28:20). Being united to the humanity of Jesus in the Eucharist, we are at the same time united to His divinity. He gives Himself to us in this way as spiritual nourishment for our journey through the wilderness this life on our way to salvation and the “Promised Land” of Heaven just as God gave the manna and the life-giving water to the children of Israel in their desert wandering on the way to the Promised Land of Canaan. He gives Himself to us in the Eucharist because of His great love for us. God’s whole plan for the salvation of mankind is directed toward our participation in the life of the Most Holy Trinity “the communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Question: When does our sharing in the life of the Trinity began and how does it progress through our faith journey? Discuss the necessity of the Sacraments in our journey.
Answer: It begins with the Sacrament of Baptism when, by the power of God the Holy Spirit, we are purified of our prior sins (original sin in the case of infants) and jointed to Christ in spiritual rebirth. Through our re-birth in Christian baptism we are no longer sons and daughters in the family of Adam but adopted sons and daughters of God the Father. Our supernatural life is strengthened and increased in the Sacrament of Confirmation and continues to be nourished and deepened through the grace that flows from God through living in all the sacraments of our faith. But our supernatural life in union with the Most Holy Trinity is most especially realized in our joining with Christ in the Eucharist where through eating and drinking the glorified Body and Blood of Christ we become united to the person of Jesus through His humanity and His divinity: Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him (John 6:56). The result is that we are drawn up into the eternal relationship of love in the Trinity of the Most Holy God with the promise that, at the end of our journey, if we preserver in faith and obedience we will enter the eternal kingdom of our Father.
Question: How often are we to receive Christ in the Eucharist: the minimum and the recommended? What are the restrictions against receiving? See CCC 2042, 1343.
Question: Is the Eucharist necessary for our salvation? Read John 6:41-58 (verse 57 is the key) and CCC 1324-27, 1341-44, 1389-1396, and 2180.
BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL
Give to everyone who asks you, for truly this is the way that God loves to give.
St. Clement of Alexandria
Be merciful in order that you might receive mercy.
Bishop St. Polycarp, Epistle 2.3
Be merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful.
Jesus in Luke 6:36
Matthew 5:7 ~ Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.
Through the miracle of the Eucharist we are filled with the humanity and divinity of Christ. With Jesus living within us, it is our desire to be more like Him. Just has He shared His merciful love with everyone so now we too, in our love for Him, feel the desire to let His mercy flow through us to everyone we meet.
The Greek word used for “merciful” in this passage is the adjective eleemon [el-eh-ay’-mone]. In the Old Testament Hebrew being “merciful” meant the outward manifestation of pity, but in the New Covenant this expression of mercy and pity is to be expressed by one who is actively compassionate as God is actively compassionate “a compassion generated internally but expressed externally as acts of mercy. Although compassion, a feeling of sympathy, is part of mercy [com meaning “with”, and passion meaning “suffering” so “with suffering”], mercy differs from compassion in that mercy is the active practice of compassion in the readiness to assist those in need. Therefore, the “merciful” are those who are not passive in showing love and compassion but who take an active role in bringing aid to those who suffer. This same Greek word for “mercy” is used to describe Jesus Christ as our High Priest in Hebrews 2:17: … therefore, he had to become like his brothers in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people, and it is used for those who are called to live lives of mercy and compassion “like God” as here in Matthew 5:7 as well as in Luke 6:35-36 which ends with the command Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful.
Question: Was showing mercy and forgiveness to others an integral part of the Old Covenant obligations? See Lev 19:18.
Answer: Yes, the command You shall love your neighbor as yourself in Leviticus 19:18b demonstrated the call to mercy.
Question: As the Israelites interpreted the Law was there any limitation applied to this outpouring of mercy? How did the Israelites interpret the command to love one’s neighbor? See Lk 10:25-37.
Answer: In the Old Covenant the Israelites interpreted the designation “neighbor” as being restricted to those who were members of the Sinai Covenant. Jesus’ teaching contrary to this concept is what led an expert on the Mosaic Law to ask Jesus: Who is my neighbor? in Luke 10:29. The parable Jesus told answered his question “every member of the human family is a neighbor.
Jesus intensified, internalized, and internationalized the Old Covenant command to show mercy and forgiveness. Jesus rejected the notion of the Old Covenant people of God that mercy was only limited to their own people when He taught on the question “who is my neighbor” in the parable of the Good Samaritan that you just read in Luke 10:25-37. In reading this parable it is important to understand that to the righteous Jew/Israelite a Samaritan was at best a half-breed heretic. For a covenant believer to come into intimate contact with a Samaritan would leave a covenant believer ritually “unclean” and therefore unable to worship in the Temple unless one was purified. To come in contact with a sinner, or one afflicted with a skin disease, or blood, or a dead body left one ritually impure and essentially cut-off from the community until one would be purified through holy water under the purification rites of the Sinai Covenant (see Num 5:1-4; 19:1-22).
Background on the Samaritans: In 722 BC the Assyrian army had conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 17:1-6). As was their custom the Assyrians exiled the entire population of Israelites, except for a very few left behind to serve the Assyrian masters (17:23). In place of the exiled 10 tribes of Israel the Assyrians imported 5 eastern tribes to work the land (17:24). Each tribe brought with them the worship of their 5 principle gods but they also adopted the worship of the local God, Yahweh (17:25-41). These foreign people, who came to be called Samaritans (after the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Samaria), did not worship Yahweh as directed under the Sinai Covenant, instead they interpreted the worship of Yahweh for themselves choose their own priests and setting up their own temple on Mt. Gerizim. The chronicler of 2 Kings concludes: Thus these nations venerated the LORD, but also served their idols. And their sons and grandsons, to this day, are doing as their fathers did. The Samaritans came to accept the first five books of the Bible as inspired Scripture, the Torah of Moses, but rejected the rest of the Old Testament canon. There was great enmity between Jews/ Israelites and Samaritans “so much enmity in fact that the Old Covenant people avoided passing through Samaria because they were likely to be robbed or killed.
Question: Did Jesus consider the Samaritans to be a people of God’s Holy Covenant? See Jesus’ reply to the Samaritan woman inJohn 4:20-24. What does He tell her concerning her people and the future of the Covenant?
Answer: John 4:22: You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. Jesus dismisses the religion of the Samaritans as being outside the covenant and a perversion through their lack of understanding. However, He continues with the promise that one day the covenant of God will be extended beyond Israel. At that time the Holy Spirit, given by God to reveal truth and to enable one to worship God with a full understanding of His Covenant, would teach everyone to worship in “Spirit and truth”.
Question: Why would the example of the Samaritan’s mercy to a Jew have been shocking to the Jewish and Israelite crowd?
Answer: Jesus used a heretic to set the standard for forgiveness and compassion indicating that the standard for a Covenant believer should be even higher! Both the Levite, a teacher of the Law, and the priest failed to show compassion either because they were afraid of robbers or perhaps their failure to show mercy was a result of their concern that the ritual impurity from contact with a bleeding body, dead or alive would contaminate them. In either case, their selfish concerns or their rigid adherence to the “letter of the law” became a hindrance to their obligation to the “spirit of the law” in the covenant command to show mercy.
Question: What is Jesus’ teaching on mercy and forgiveness in this parable? To whom does God’s command to show love and mercy extend “who is the New Covenant believer’s neighbor? Please read Lk 6:35-36 to help you with your answer. Jesus teaches, But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful.
Answer: In Luke 6:35-36 as in the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus extends the application of mercy and love to embrace all men, friends and brothers as well as enemies. Love and mercy must not be limited to external acts of charity but love and mercy must come from the heart of the New Covenant believer. Everyone in God’s creation is the New Covenant believer’s neighbor and is deserving of love, mercy and compassion, and one’s merciful response to someone in need is not determined by one’s own convenience or inconvenience. See CCC 581, 1829, 2447.
Question: Is the parable of the Good Samaritan and Jesus’ teaching in Luke 6:35-36 an answer to Cain’s question to God in Genesis 4:9? What did Cain ask and what is the answer to his question?
Answer: Cain asked God, Am I my brother’s keeper? The answer is “YES”!
“FOR THEY SHALL OBTAIN MERCY”
Love itself is the fulfillment of all our works. There is the goal; that is why we run: we run toward it, and once we reach it. In it we shall find rest.
St. Augustine, Homilies on the Gospel of John, 10.4
Writing of Jesus’ humanity: …therefore, he had to become like his brothers in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
So speak and so act as people who will be judged by the law of freedom. For the judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
Question: What is the 5th petition of the “Our Father” prayer? See Mt 9-13.
Answer: And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Question: What is it that is the implied negative in the second phrase of this petition that will not be granted if we fail to forgive our trespasses?
Answer: It is implied that our petition for forgiveness will not be heard unless we first forgive others who have wronged us. It is interesting that this is the 5th petition. In the significance of numbers in Scripture, 5 is the number signifying grace.
This petition is so important that in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus will return to address this particular petition on granting mercy and forgiveness after finishing the Our Father prayer in Matthew 6:14-15, and Jesus will continue teaching the importance of extending God’s mercy to us in our relationships with others throughout His ministry. An example of Jesus’ commitment to mercy as a necessary Christian virtue can be found in the parable of the Ungrateful Servant, also know as the Parable of the Merciless Servant.
Please read Matthew 18:21-35: The Parable of the Ungrateful or Merciless Servant
21 Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. 23 That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. 25 Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. 26 At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ 27 Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. 28 When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, Pay back what you owe.’ 29 Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ 30 But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt. 31 Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. 32 His master summoned him and said to him, You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. 33 Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ 34 Then in anger, his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. 35 So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”
Question: In Jesus’ parable who is the king/master and who is the ungrateful servant?
Answer: The king is God and the servant is every professing believer.
Question: What was the ungrateful servant’s sin and what was the broader implication of that sin in his relationship with his master/God?
Answer: He failed to show the same mercy to a fellow servant who owed him very little compared to the mercy shown to him by his master to whom he owed a great deal.
Question: How does Jesus end this teaching on mercy and forgiveness? What is His warning?
Answer: The merciless servant is cast into “prison” until every part of his debt was paid and Jesus warns: So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.
Don’t misunderstand this parable; God’s forgiveness is unconditional. Jesus paid the price for our sins on the Cross once and for all, but the sin of our failure to forgive others can separate us from God’s forgiveness. God in His mercy has forgiven us so much more than we could ever repay. Our sin in refusing to forgive our brother or sister in the family of Adam can become an impediment to the mercy and forgiveness God has made possible to us through the sacrifice of His Son. Our refusal to forgive blocks our reception of His mercy and forgiveness. God’s forgiveness doesn’t enter us unless through Christ we become channels of mercy and forgiveness. St. Paul, who knew first hand the dept of God’s forgiveness, wrote: And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ(Eph 4:32). Even when it is hard to forgive for our own sake, we are still called to the unity of forgiveness that is in Jesus Christ for His love and forgiveness is “the love that loves to the end”: … Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1).
Question: How far are we required to go in our mercy and forgiveness? Must we forgive our greatest enemy? See Mt 5:43-48, CCC 2844
Answer: Yes, we must forgive even our enemies. When we forgive those who have hurt us deeply we cooperate in God’s grace. Forgiving others allows us to see how Christ could forgive those who lied at His trial and nailed Him to the Cross “which includes all of us for we are all culpable in His death through our own sin. When we are filled with Christ’s righteousness we look upon the face of our enemy and see the face of the Christ who loved and forgave. Love is stronger than sin. The sin of the failure to forgive binds and wounds the soul so much more deeply than the barbs of your enemy. Forgive your enemy, set your soul free and feel the power of God’s grace working in you!
- Because you are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you. Colossians 3:12-13
The fifth step on the road to salvation and the fifth promise:
| Blessed are the merciful: when
we show our mercy and
forgiveness à we will be
given mercy and forgiveness
on the Cross
Questions for group discussion:
Question: What are the corporal works of mercy outlined in the New Testament and in the Catechism? How do you fulfill these works of compassion? See Matthew 6:2-4; 25:31-46; James 2:15-16; 1 John 3:17; and the CCC 2447.
Question: As defined by the Church, charity is love in action in the application of showing God’s love to others in need. Mercy is one of the “fruits of charity. What are the other “fruits” of charity? See CCC 1829.
Question: What special “freedom” does the Church teach that a life animated by charity gives the Christian? See CCC 1828.
Question: Why is one of the Virgin Mary’s titles “the Mother of Mercy?” What special prayer do we address to her in her role as the Mother of Mercy? Hint: it is probably the first prayer you ever learned and the last one you will pray at the end of your life. See CCC 2677.
Question: Are works of mercy necessary for our salvation? See CCC 1473, 2447.
1. Multiple word repetitions within a passage in Scripture (in the original language) are always significant. Numbers have significance beyond their numerical value in the Bible. The nine time repetition in Romans 3:21-30 should draw our attention to the symbolic meaning of the number nine in Scripture. It is usually seen as a number indicating judgment. If you include the use of this Greek word for “righteous” or “just” in verses 4, 5 and 11, St. Paul uses this word in its various forms a total of twelve times. The number twelve in Scripture is one of the so-called “perfect” numbers symbolizing “perfection of government” (twelve tribes of Israel governed the Old Covenant Church and the twelve Apostles governed the New Covenant Church). For more information on the symbolic use of numbers in the Bible see the document The Significance of Numbers in Scripture in the Documents section.