HOMILY FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A.
THEME: Being a True Child of God in the World.
BY: Fr. Anthony O. Ezeaputa, MA.
The Gospel of Matthew is the gospel reading for this liturgical year (A). As we read Matthew’s gospel, there are three things to keep in mind: Matthew’s five great discourses, its five transitional statements, and most importantly, Matthew’s image of Jesus Christ. They help to understand the message of the gospel.
According to tradition, Moses wrote Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These Bible books are also called the Five Books of Moses, the Torah in Hebrew, or the Pentateuch in Greek.
It is thought that the structure of Matthew’s Gospel is based on the Five Books of Moses, and Matthew’s editing of the Five Books of Moses led to its five great discourses (the Sermon on the Mount, the Mission Discourse, the Parabolic Discourse, the Discourse on the Church, and the Discourse on the End Times) and five transitional statements (7:28, 11:1, 13:53, 19:1, and 26:1). Also, the structure of Matthew’s gospel, including its five great discourses and five transitional statements, reveals what Matthew’s gospel is about.
Matthew intends to show that Jesus is the “new Moses” and “new teacher of Israel.” Jesus is the “new authority” and the one who gives the “new Israel” the “new law” on how to live as children of God. As a result, Matthew’s image of Jesus Christ par excellence is the “new Moses.”
Today’s gospel reading is the first of five discourses (Matthew 5-7) from the Gospel of Matthew, “the Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5:1–12a). It is also known as “the Beatitudes.”
The word “beatitude” means “to be blessed, prosperous, or abundant.” Our gospel passage contains at least three clues that Jesus is the new Moses.
Jesus starts his ministry after John the Baptist, the last prophet from the Old Testament, has been put in prison (Matthew 4:12–17). Jesus goes up the mountain, which Matthew calls “the mountain” (Matthew 5:1). It reminds us that Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the law (Exodus 19:3), and when Jesus sat down to teach (Deuteronomy 9:9), he was doing the same thing Moses did when he received the law from God on Mount Sinai.
As a result, the Sermon on the Mount is the new law and the new teaching from the new Moses. But the tone of the law has shifted from “what we ought not to do” to “what we ought to be,” that is, from “thou shall not” to “thou shall be.”
The Ten Commandments, also called the Decalogue, say “Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” “Thou shalt not steal,” etc. But the new Moses differs from the Ten Commandments.
The new law is “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.” “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.” “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God,” and so on.
Instead of giving a list of “thou shall nots,” Jesus gives a list of what we are to become. As we notice, each of these beatitudes or blessings speaks to who the person is, not just a list of easy things to do and things not to do.
How does someone become poor in spirit, merciful, meek, clean of heart, or a peacemaker? Surely, it is not a one-time action that can be crossed off the list once completed. Instead, it is a state of life, which is why the Sermon on the Mount represents both a new law and a new teaching.
The new law defies all preconceived notions of what it means to be truly blessed or prosperous. According to the new law, to be “blessed” or “prosperous” is not determined by the possession of wealth and power, as the Romans may have believed. It’s not even by following the law very strictly, as the scribes and Pharisees would have thought.
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Instead, one becomes blessed or prosperous by becoming poor in spirit, meek, humble, and lowly, and hungering after righteousness. It is being compassionate, merciful, and a peacemaker. In short, being blessed or prosperous has more to do with who we are as Christians than with what we do.
After all, there is nobody who wakes up one day and automatically becomes “poor in spirit.” Instead, to be “poor in spirit” is a state of being or a way of life. It means being humble, constantly recognizing one’s sinfulness or weaknesses, and completely trusting more in God than in the things of this world. Hence, Jesus proclaims, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
So, the Sermon on the Mount is a big picture of what it means to be a true child of God in the world. It tells us who we should try to become.
Today, let us thank God for his Son, Jesus Christ, our new Moses, our new teacher, and our new lawgiver. Let us thank God for revealing to us in simple terms who we are called to become through his Son, Jesus Christ.
Let us ask God to make us poor in spirit, meek, peacemakers, humble, and hungry for righteousness. Let us pray that nothing may ever derail us from being true children of God, in season and out of season. May those who are persecuted for doing what is right be strengthened by our prayers and rejoice in the promise of salvation. Happy Sunday!
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